curgoth: (Default)
( Oct. 11th, 2012 09:26 pm)
Waargh, let this go too long without posting it again.
26. The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross
More Laundry! Not nearly so bleak and depressing as the previous installment. I enjoyed it, but found the ending a tad abrupt. I was expecting more epilogue than there was. I am starting to get more of a feeling that there's a larger story with an actual ending going on behind the books here. So, I think it's possible that we may eventually get a book title CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN that ends the series.
27. John Dies At The End by David Wong
This is not the right book to read while camping. There is a lot of bug-related body horror going on. That said, it was a nice, solid creepy horror novel that play with Lovecraft's toys in a manner quite different than Stross.
28. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This was a decent book, and I get why it's gotten so much attention. It was, very obviously, written to be turned into a movie.

Not that there's anything wrong with the story, but it's got all the biases of a Hollywood movie. A straight white teen-aged male who's smarter than everyone else overcomes adversity by being smart and brave, with the help of his friends who aren't white, straight or male enough to be heroes. The significant female character is the love interest, who has a relatively minor flaw that the protag can overlook, showing how deep and pure his love is when he gets the girl as part of his reward. Which makes it sound like I didn't like it. I have just come to expect a bit more of my literature in terms of trope awareness. I'm sure the movie will do well. Michael Bay could direct!

The other aspect of the book that's interesting is the 80s nerd culture fixation. Again, it's pretty specifically the nerd culture of the straight white kid who grew up middle classed in the 80s. It's extremely detailed, and makes it pretty clear that the book is not only fantasy for a certain kind of dudenerd, but a dudenerd of a certain age. I'm pretty close to the target demographic myself. It's this element that has gotten the book so much attention, I think. It aims itself directly at the classic SF audience. I assume the details will be sanded off for the movie version to make it more accessible to today's teens.
29. Colder War by Ian Tregillis
I confess, when I read book one of the Milkweed Triptych, I didn't realise that it was part of a trilogy. Which made the state of the end of book one rather bleak and miserable. Book two is, well, overall pretty bleak and miserable, but there are shards of hope glimmering here and there. Set 20 years after book one, Colder War does marvelous things with the terrible remains of book one. There's not too much I can say without spoiling one of the two books, but I was very happy with the way the character development was handled. I want book 3 now.
30. Distrust That Particular Flavour by William Gibson
A collection of William Gibson's non-fiction essays spanning the length of his career. It's interesting seeing the various ways he, as an author who hasn't done all that much non-fiction, has influenced the memetic atmosphere. It's more interesting when he analyzes that impact and mentions that he didn't really know what he was talking about at the time.

Which is of course, the other reason to read the book - Gibson is a fantastic writer, whose style makes everything interesting, even when it wouldn't otherwise be.
31. vN by Madeleine Ashby
Living, self-reproducing robots created as helpmeets for those left behind after the Rapture (which didn't occur).

These are the vN (von Neumann machines), a human created rival sapient species on Earth. Ashby does a fantastic job extrapolating from her premise, and builds out from Asimov's three laws, Blade Runner's Replicants and the various androids of SF's past.

There's a lot of pondering on the nature of Free Will, Humanity, etc. Also, killer androids on the loose! I loved the heck out of this book, and really hope there's more forthcoming.
32. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
The elevator pitch: standard D&D party fantasy novel, but! it's all set in a fantasy version of the Baghdad of 1001 Arabian Knights. Smart, rich fantasy that doesn't need a white dude to hang the reader's viewpoint off of.

Ahmed passed my most important test for good characterization - those moments where I say to myself, "Oh, Doctor Adoulla!" because the character has done something endearing or touching that is so very consistent with the traits that character has shown so far.

[ profile] mycrazyhair, you can read this one; the characters suffer, but none are actually broken.
33. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
And, without planning it, here's another non-white, non-Eurocentric fantasy where I can almost hear the dice rolling in the background.

The setting really knocked me for a loop at first - the trick with the skies took some time to wrap my head around. And I still have questions about how the moons work.

Because this is Bear, though, it wasn't overly distracting, because Bear's strength is her amazing characters and their living dialogue. I fell for Timur (our !Mongol warrior prince) and Samarkand (Our !Tibetan(I think) wizard and former princess), and Dumpling the horse, and the refreshingly titless tiger woman Hrahima. As always with Bear, the characters felt like real people, and people I'd like were I to meet them.

Plot-wise, there's some standard questiness and a sinister evil in the form of someone whose the head of a cult that borrows a lot from the story of Hassan-i Sabbah and Alamut. There's some interesting plot nuggets of various amounts of obviousness placed throughout - enough for me to enjoy playing my game of trying to figure out if X is foreshadowing what I think it's foreshadowing.

I'm looking forward to the next book.
34. The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturlusson (translated by Jean I. Young)
I had never actually read this before. The translation I was reading was from the 50s, and the translator made some weird choices - in some places the beverage of the gods is translated to mead, in others, wine. The Jotnar are referred to as "frost ogres" instead of "frost giants". There are a lot of lists of names of things and places, and the translator frequently uses footnotes to explain the literal translation of about half of them, with no explanation of why those are translated and others aren't. So, not the best translation.

As far as the content goes, I was somewhat surprised by the amount of work Sturluson had to do to place the Norse myths into a contemporary (for him) context - I'd never run into the bit about placing the Aesir as wayward Trojans from an era when, after the Flood, man had somehow forgotten the Christian God (except for a desert tribe in the Middle East, naturally). The amount of mental gymnastics going on is impressive, but given that he was writing only a couple hundred years after Iceland converted to Christianity, he had to walk on fairly thin ice to get away with writing it at all.

The stories themselves I had already read elsewhere, in more coherent and internally consistent adaptations, and I'm left with an urge to do more research - it seems to me that we've got at least a little more references for Norse myth than I ran into here.

Which is not to say I didn't enjoy it, or get anything out of it.
35. Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher
I went into this book braced for the sort of clever, winking, self-aware sort of superhero deconstruction of Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible or Minister Faust's From The Notebooks of Dr. Brain. What I actually found was a fairly decent first novel that took a straight shot at the superhero genre. No smirking deconstruction required.

The basic setup is that Tony (whose name was derived from the Pixies song), finds himself with superpowers one day, in a fictional not-LA where the last superhero team battle frequently and inconclusively with the last supervillain. There's a couple deleted scenes at the end that I think really shouldn't have been deleted - certain bits of skulduggery fall through the cracks without one of them, and an important character change doesn't make any sense without another.

On the whole, I think the character development is on the weak side - I didn't see enough to understand why people were doing things, so a lot of character action seemed random. Things seemed pretty clearly set up for sequels, and I did enjoy it enough to read the next book at least.
36. The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
A British secret society tasked with recruiting super-powered people, and using them to combat supernatural threats to the nation! Our protagonist, one Mwfanwy Thomas, comes to covered in bruises, surrounded by dead people in latex gloves, with no memory of who she is or how she got there.

So, superpowers, White-Wolfian secret societies, and Identity Horror?


O'Malley did not disappoint me. This book was fantastic and wonderful, and hit so many of my literary kinks that I am still sad that it ended. On his blog, O'Malley states his intention to write more books, some in this world, some not.
Which saddens me only in the implication that there aren't more waiting in the publication queue already.
curgoth: (Default)
( Jul. 14th, 2009 10:33 am)

12. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Short form review; Dawkins is right, but I wish he wasn't such a dick about it. In more detail, the earlier parts of the book work well - Dawkins does a good job of presenting the logical, rational arguments against religious belief. His later sections on arguments about religion being a force for "evil" hold up less well, in my opinion - many of them hinge on fanaticism being bad, and religion as a strong force for fanaticism. I'm not sold on the slippery slope Dawkins uses. Additionally, I found myself twinging at some instances of subtle sexism and other isms. Dawkins has more than a little bit of That Guy in his writing, and it irked me.

13. The Player of Games by Ian M. Banks

Okay, I finally read Banks. Years ago, I started Use of Weapons and gave up a third of the way in. With this one, I found I didn't really get hooked until about halfway. I think it was the robots that sold me. I definitely enjoyed the space operaness, and think I will revisit more of the Culture novels later.

14. Saturn's Children by Charles Stross

Moar robots! Asimovian robots built to serve humans in a universe where mankind has gone extinct. The protagonist is a sexbot built not long after the last man died. Robots have developed thier own society. Because it's Stross, there's weirdness, and awesomeness. I would say more, but I don't want to spoil it.

curgoth: (Default)
( Jan. 5th, 2009 10:48 am)
To round of 2008...

29. New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear

Magic, vampires and zeppelins! Bear's alternate universe paints an America still under British rule, and where magic is as much a part of every day life as the technology the Industrial Revolution has brought. I especially loved the character of Abby Irene. But then, I would. It's been a while since anyone got me to enjoy a vampire book.

30. The Merchant's War by Charles Stross

Book four in Stross' Family Trade books. It feels a bit like a middle book, which it is - a lot of stuff happens, and nothing gets resolved. I'm glad, though, that the series has a defined end - there are supposed to be two more books until things get tied up. I'm still enjoying the books, but I am glad there's an end in sight.

I have a stack waiting for me, and I'm slogging my way through Neal Stephenson's Anathem right now.
curgoth: (Default)
( Aug. 10th, 2008 05:15 pm)

13.In Defense of Food by Micahel Pollen

Interesting, and a quick read. Pollen's sugegstion is that one should "eat food, not too much, mostly plants". "Food" is differentiated from "food products" (i.e., bread, carrots, etc. are food, while things with 40 ingredients, most of which can't be prononced by our puny HU-MAN tongues are food products). His research sugegsts that nutritionism doesn't really know what it's doing, leading to unhealthy fads (low fat, low carb, etc.) and corresponding food products to match. The so-called "Western Diseases" (heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc.) that are so much more prevanent in places with a modern western diet don't seem to be slowed by the various diet trends. Pollen suggests that traditional diets seem to work better, and the science is just nowhere close to figuring out why - it's not about anti-oxidants or omega-3, but possibly how all the foods in a "traditional" diet work together. For example, mixing protein and carbohydrates apparently makes a big difference in how the carbs are metabolized (far less up and down of insulin levels), and the sugars in fruit are dealt with better due to the water and fibre.

He also gives some number on the effects of modern agriculture's breeding for size and quantity on the nutritional value of modern produce - in some cases, you'd have to eat 3-4 times as much of the same kind of food to get some of the same nutrients, when compared to 1940 (apples for examples, have far less zinc). He presents the theory that the modern obesity epidemic may be related - if we're not getting all we need, we keep on eating, trying to find enough nutrients, vitamin, minerals, etc., and thus end up consuming far more calories than we need.

Where the book falls apart, IMHO, is in the last part, where Pollen tries to provide suggestions for how to "eat food, not too much, mostly plants". He's a journalist and university professor in Berkeley, California. So, for him, maintaining a garden, eating food mostly from local farmer's markets, and having your own fruit tree are all perfectly reasonable suggestions. The further you are from being a journalist and university professor in California, the more difficult it seems. If Pollen's right, then the poor, the busy, and those living in places that get winters may be doomed to die of heart attacks and cancer.

14.Shaman's Crossing by Robin Hobb

I kept waiting for this novel to "get it". It seems to be roughly a regency military coming of age story set in a fantasy world with magic. The racism, classism, sexism and various social conventions are more or less what you'd expect. The ruling society with guns has been expanding eastwards and conquering the savage nomads or the plains, etc. There's a crude environemental awareness sort of glued on top, which just made the other blind spots more grating.

Also, I wanted to leap into the book and throttle the kid. If I had to listen to his inner voice whining about "Striving to be worthy of the [respect|love] of his [father|teacher|true love that he is betrothed to and only met once since puberty]", then I think I may have puked.

I made it as far as the kid getting to the acedemy, but gave up before the predictable "good kid in the academy" story arc played out.

15.Halting State by Charles Stross

Ah, much better. A healthy dose of Strossbabble! A near future story where cell phones are even more ubiquitous, and used for all sorts of neat stuff.

The book is written in second person, which a number of people have found off-putting. It didn't bother me at all. I actually found it helped me get inside the skin of the three POV characters.

curgoth: (Default)
( May. 20th, 2008 10:53 am)

6.The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross

More Bob Howard; take one part British superspy, one part BOFH, and one part H.P. Lovecraft, serve chaken, not stirred. While the first Howard book, The Atrocity Archives, was patterned after Len Deighton's Harry Palmer books, The Jennifer Morgue is a take on Ian Fleming's James Bond works. I didn't enjoy The Jennifer Morgue as much as I did The Atrocity Archives, but it was still a lot of fun. I missed the "Dilbert Factor" that was present in The Atrocity Archives, though the bit about PowerPoint was a nice touch.

7.Dust by Elizabeth Bear

One part nano-victorian future, one part Amber, one part Gormenghast/Upstairs-downstairs, one part "in spaaaaace!". I loved this book. I wish it had been longer, actually - I wanted more time to get to know the characters and the world before the plot swept them along. I eagerly await the next book. I also loved catching the little tips of the hat to various Amber characters. It's obvious if you're paying attention, but not a big enough deal that it distracts form the story Bear's telling. It seems that a lot of my reading lately comes down to Stross vs. Bear; both are prolific, and stand high in my esteem. I have to say that this round goes to Bear.

8.The Clan Corporate by Charles Stross

The third family trade book. Another series with obvious Amber influence, in a comepltely different way. I missed the economic theory play from the last book, but the attention to plot and character development made up for it. I look forward to being able to re-read the series when it's done to get a wider picture of the series as a whole. Not that I can wait that long to read the next one.

Even though it seems like too brief a break, it's time to get my brain back to harder material. Next up is Feminisms, edited by Kemp and Squires - basically it's a first year Women's Studies survery text. It's broken into six sections, totally almost six hundred pages. I am not sure I'll be able to get through the entire book in one shot without breaking my head, so I may stop after 2 or 3 sections, and come back to it in another cycle.
curgoth: (Default)
( Nov. 29th, 2007 11:19 am)

Everything You Know is Wrong from Disinformation Press

I couldn't finish this - it was pissing me off too much. The book purports to be a collection of news stories that haven't recieved much coverage by the mainstream media. Most of the articles are badly researched, badly annotated, and come across as crazy conspiracy theories. Even when I read an article where I agreed with the thesis beforehand, I found myself wondering if I should re-think my stance after the article. I got really sick of seeing the word "facts" presented in scare quotes. Also, while it is convenient to dismiss all information that disagrees with your thesis as the result of a global conspiracy, it doesn't help me consider your argument as well-reasoned and thought out.

The article that convinced me to stop reading the book was Mickey Z's "Fear of a Vegan Planet." I agree with the basic thesis, that a vegan diet is a more ethical and healthy choice. The article reads like it was written for a high school assignment.

Nearly all of his references are to video tapes, pamphlets or web sites from a partiuclar set of vegan activists. He dismisses nutritionists who disagree with his claimed protein requirements as being puppets of the meat industry, and the number he claims as accurate is supposed to be from the WHO. When I checked the end notes, his sources for the WHO data is... a pamphlet from a vegan activist group. He couldn't actually get the data directly from the WHO? It's not clear from the context of the quote whether or not the number provided is the amount of protein needed to not die, or an ideal healthy amount, but the context seems to be data on starvation in third world countries, so I am dubious about using that as a lifestyle choice.

My end conclusion, when I finally gave up on the book, is that these stories are not being presented by the mainstream media because thier authors are very poor journalists. some of the short editorials read fairly well, but it wasn't worth the pain of slogging through the longer articles.

The Chains You Refuse by Elizabeth Bear

A collection of short stories. I liked some of the stories better than others, but overall, I enjoyed the book. I liked the stories from the Edda of Burdens world particularly.

Undertow by Elizabeth Bear

An SF novel from Bear. I think this book might have benefitted from being longer - the characters seemed to have a lot more individual background and story than there was room for. I still enjoyed it - I just found myself wanting more time to explore each of the characters. My inner eye seems to be losing some of its anglocentrism - I had a hard time in Carnival not assuming everyone was white until given specific descriptions to the contrary. With Undertow, I found I was no longer assuming that the future would be filled with white people and special guest stereotypes .

Glasshouse by Charles Stross

Handmaid's Tale meets the Stepford Wives at a bathhouse, they do a lot of drugs and wake up in bed three days later with some software engineers they met on the way. Stross explores modern concepts of gender, identity, society and... stuff. Much goodness. Reading Stross' work always leaves my head buzzing for days afterwards.

I've started reading Disinformation Press' Book of Lies, which, unlike Everything You Know is Wrong is primarily essays from various occultists, and thus neatly avoids the problems I had with EYKIW - there's no expectation of journalisitic integrity here, andI enjoyed the hell out of the first essay by Grant Morrisson.

So much so, in fact, that I decided I needed to go buy and finish the Invisibles before I read anything else.
curgoth: (Default)
( Dec. 25th, 2006 01:09 pm)
I've been remiss at logging my reading...

Probably out of order. I hope I haven't missed anything - among other things, this list is supposed to help prevent me buying books I've already read.

The Hallowed Hunt by Lois Mc Master Bujold

Mmm, Bujold. I really like the theology for this ficton.

The Hidden Family by Charles Stross

Book two in the Merchant Princes series. I liked this one much more than the first, and that's saying something. The main romantic relationship was clarified in a way that covered my problems with it in the first book. Also, Stross manages to make economic theory interesting, and with much fewer words than Neal Stephenson did in his Baroque Cycle.

Accelerando by Charles Stross

Why yes, on my last book store trip I did buy a bunch of Stross. Accelerando is Stross' most direct take on the Singularity and Posthumanism. I want utility fog! I am not sure I want an omnipotent cat, though.

The Atrocity Archive by Charles Stross

Imagine Tim Powers' Declare if written by Neal Stephenson after reading a lot of Lovecraft, in England. British Lovecraftian geek spies. I devoured this one like a Shoggoth, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the next book.

Oracle's Queen by Lynn Flewelling

A good, clean end to a good series. I can't stress enough how much I enjoy fantasy series that actually end, these days. Yes, there are unanswered questions and unexplored story gems. That's fine - those are different stories. Good stories need to have endings.

Making Comics by Scott McCloud

So much goodness! I leanred a lot, and will likely re-read this periodically as I make my glacial progress on my own comics experiments over on [ profile] mrdeth. I really need to get ahold of McCloud's other two books.

The Magician's Reflection by Bill Whitcomb

An examination of symbolism in a magical context, with the aim of developing systems of symbols for a magical system. I've been getting a lot out of this, but I have had to put it down for a while to read other things.

Techniques of Chaos Magic by Joseph Max

The nice thing about online works is how easily they are downloaded to my futurephone. This is worth reading if you've any interest in Chaos magic.

If I can finish off the book I'm currently reading (American Backlash: The Untold Story of Social Change in The United States), I'll have made 20 books this year, which is a decent showing for me in a year where I've read this many non-fiction books.
curgoth: (Default)
( Oct. 9th, 2005 09:05 am)

  • Charlie Stross' Iron Sunrise. I really love Stross' Science Fiction stuff. This book contains the most beautiful description of the death of a star ever.

  • Dick Hebidge's Subculture: The Meaning of Style My "serious" book. A cultural post-mortem on punk, written in the late 70s. I found the history of puink and other youth subcultures pretty interesting. Like Tao of Jeet Kune Do, though, I think the book's age showed a bit for me, since a lot of the ideas presented are things I've run into in other places, including alt.gothic. The book uses a lot of Marxist theory and Structuralist techniques. This last point is interesting to me because a) I still don't quite "get" Structuralist theory, and b) one of the things about it that I got from In the Flesh is that apparently it has since been superceded by Post-Structutralist theory. Which I also don't quite get, but there you are. I'm still enjoying my exploration into cultural studies. I'm not sure what my next "serious" book is going to be.

  • Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys I found the characters more "real" than those in American Gods, and so enjoyed it even more.

I started the Da Vinci Code in there, but lost track of the book - I think I left it in another city. No tears - it was not a fun read. I'll finish that thing eventually.

My reading is slowing down quite a bit, because I'm driving every day to work, and I haven't been able to get time to myself to read every day at lunch. I may need to explore audiobooks.
curgoth: (Hero)
( Aug. 14th, 2005 09:35 pm)
Recent books

  • The Family Trade by Charlie Stross. A lot of parallels have been drawn between this book and the Amber books. It's a fair comparison, and a pretty good book. I didn't really think the romance bits of it made sense in view of everything else that was going on, but it's the start of a series, and I'm hoping that the succeeding books will smooth that out.

  • Scardown by Elizabeth Bear. I liked this a lot. I'm eagerly awaiting WorldWired. It's cyberpunk, but not. Most importantly, for me, the characters are really solid and human. A lot of the standard cyberpunk tropes are present, but where classic cyberpunk tends to let the tech and the setting frame characters who are cold, alienated and distant, Bear's characters act like people.

  • The Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee. My "serious" book for this cycle. I'm not finished this yet - still fighting through the last 20 pages. Every serious martial artist should read this. Part of my problem is that most serious martial artists have read it - it's clear that my teachers read it, and took what they wanted from it - so some of the big changes Lee was hoping to make with the book have been worked into the instruction I've received. The book was collected from 7 volumes of notes Lee had put together with the intention of polishing into a book before he died. This shows - the book has a lot of interesting things to say, but it's very much a lot of stuff just tossed down onto paper. I haven't gotten as much out of the book as I could have, if I were actually training right now. A lot of the specific techniques aren't that useful to read about without a place to practice them. More importantly, though, it's got me thinking again, and is motivating me to go train again - I'm hoping to go back to OCMA (my old club in Oakville) when the office moves in September. I'll be working most of the way to Oakville already, so it just makes more sense to go back there than try to find a club in TO, and then try to fight my way through traffic every night to get there.

I've already got my next four books from the library sitting waiting for me. I need to rush through the end of JKD so I can get going on the new ones - they're going to need to get back before too much longer.
curgoth: (Default)
( Apr. 21st, 2005 05:37 am)
My three "fluff/fiction" books;

* John Betancourt's "The Dawn of Amber". I just had to know... I took this out from the library. Betancourt clearly loves Amber, and clearly doesn't Get It. His plot requires both Oberon and Dworkin to be idiots. I am going to keep reading these things until I can't take it any more, because I have masochistic streak.

* Charlie Stross' "Singularity Sky". Good book. It manages to hit on pretty much every common meaning of the word "singularity" that I can think of. I'm requesting more of his stuff from the library, because I need something good to clean my head out after the Betancourt.

* Spider Robinson's "Very Bad Deaths". Classic Spider. Very short - I read it in a single day, which is odd for me. The plot and characters are pretty much what one expects from Spider Robinson, but I think the writing style is a little more ambitious than his older books. Definitely enjoyable.


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags