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FPyat
Jan 17, 2020


Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts. A very long book, yet it still managed to feel condensed. The battle descriptions were my least favorite part - mostly just described the actions, without delving into the tactical thinking.

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nonathlon
Jul 9, 2004
And yet, somehow, now it's my fault ...

Reaverbot posted:

Finished Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Got it under the impression that it was a sort of supernatural mystery, or at least that’s hows it was described to me. It ended up being about a quarter mystery novel and then three quarters of Jaws In a Museum. The result was pretty entertaining admittedly and a ton of people get viscerally ganked in between middling-to-decent character interaction. One complaint I had was the rival FBI character introduced later into the book who is so incredibly stereotypical and pulled straight from something like Die Hard that it almost comes off as parody

They also made a movie, which makes sense because it is almost written in a style begging for it, but it’s a serious mess and somehow ends up far less violent and creepy than the book is. Oh well

Preston is not a good writer. Even when he does non-fiction (The Hot Zone, The Monster of Florence), it's written in this breathless pulpy way like he's trying to turn it into a B movie.

ThePopeOfFun
Feb 15, 2010


nonathlon posted:

Preston is not a good writer. Even when he does non-fiction (The Hot Zone, The Monster of Florence), it's written in this breathless pulpy way like he's trying to turn it into a B movie.

this is what is good about Relic though. (Hippo)campy, pulpy, dumb and fun.

TommyGun85
Jun 5, 2013


Is this Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry managed to catalogue every joke he's ever written in chronological order and its brilliant. Reading them chronologically really helps you appreciate how hes managed to be relevant and stay fresh for 40 years.

Reading them (instead of hearing them on stage) really makes it feel like you are just tapped into his internal thoughts as opposed to reading jokes.

He begins in the 70s with thoughts about cereals and ends this year with Uber and the coronavirus.

filmcynic
Oct 30, 2012


nonathlon posted:

Preston is not a good writer. Even when he does non-fiction (The Hot Zone, The Monster of Florence), it's written in this breathless pulpy way like he's trying to turn it into a B movie.

The Hot Zone was actually written by his brother Richard. Everything else you said still applies, though.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



ThePopeOfFun posted:

this is what is good about Relic though. (Hippo)campy, pulpy, dumb and fun.

Their early books are pretty good for that in general. Shame they went off the deep end as they kept up with the Pendergast stuff.

Also, it's hard to miss their increasingly weird and blatant sex crap as they kept writing.

Fighting Trousers
May 17, 2011

Does this excite you, girl?


Just got done with The Unidentified by Colin Dickey. It's not so much about cryptids, UFOs, and conspiracy theories as the why of them; what forces lead us to these things, and what hole are they filling in our weird, disordered lives? It's a great blend of social history , cultural critique, and tales of the weird. Really good stuff.

Famethrowa
Oct 5, 2012



Just finished a week by week recount of the Korean war by John Toland. It was a slog, but inarguably, it reflected the actual horrors of the war. Just ego, incompetence, and hubris on both sides, that led to millions of deaths. Horrible stuff, but important to remember.

Jolly Jumbuck
Mar 14, 2006

Cats like optical fibers.

Just finished a Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. A semi-dystopian future but with an absurd humor mixed in that reflects real life.

For the first time ever, I'm at a loss of words to describe the book. It was a mixture of intricate, wryly humorous, happy and sad all at the same time. It's the first time I ever lost sleep thinking about the potential ramifications of the book and how the characters will go. It's undecided if there will be a sequel, or prequel released, but in some ways I'd almost rather there not be so that I could write my own sequel in my head. Anyone else ever have this weird feeling over a book?

Chas McGill
Oct 29, 2010


I remember reading that when it was released (over 10 years ago?!) And eagerly anticipating the sequel...

Reaverbot
Jun 13, 2010


nonathlon posted:

Preston is not a good writer. Even when he does non-fiction (The Hot Zone, The Monster of Florence), it's written in this breathless pulpy way like he's trying to turn it into a B movie.


I donít disagree. It probably helps that I wasnít looking for anything except a pulpy mystery story in the first place. If anything I was more amused than anything that it ended up basically being a goofy movie in book form

Just finished Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. Iím not generally a huge fantasy guy and I previously bounced off of the first Way Of Kings novel really hard, but I ended up liking this so much that I want to go back and give it another chance now. It was full of kind of simplistic but overall likable characters held together by a fun plot that kept subverting my expectations of it. It also (mostly) lacked in depth medieval warfare stuff that drives me away from a lot of fantasy Iíve tried to read recently

Knight007au
May 8, 2007


I actually read a paper book for the first time in probably like 7 years. It was Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley.

It was amazing I just read it in one sitting because I couldn't stop, I highly recommend it.

Hyrax Attack!
Jan 13, 2009

We demand to be taken seriously


FPyat posted:

Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts. A very long book, yet it still managed to feel condensed. The battle descriptions were my least favorite part - mostly just described the actions, without delving into the tactical thinking.

Oh I really liked that one. I had listened to the Revolutions podcast about the French and wanted to know what happened next, and that really filled in some gaps.

Knight007au posted:

I actually read a paper book for the first time in probably like 7 years. It was Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley.

It was amazing I just read it in one sitting because I couldn't stop, I highly recommend it.

Yeah that is fascinating. Definitely recommend the HBO documentary as a companion piece, it adds to the story by showing footage of their corporate culture and how involved retail pharmacies were. Plus they have neat computer simulations of how the blood testing machine was supposed to work.

nonathlon
Jul 9, 2004
And yet, somehow, now it's my fault ...

Knight007au posted:

I actually read a paper book for the first time in probably like 7 years. It was Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley.

It was amazing I just read it in one sitting because I couldn't stop, I highly recommend it.

Bad Blood is amazing. I've been recommending it to people, but it's hard to describe why it's such a gripping read: a start-up being a start-up, only taking it to the extreme.

Looping back to Douglas Preston, the weird pulpy nature of his writing makes me raise all sorts of questions. Like he claims to have solved the Monster of Florence case, but was it just a good ending to the book? Then he crops up in connection with the Amanda Knox case, and I get even more suspicious.

White Coke
May 29, 2015


Finished The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, translated by R. H. Fuller with revisions by Irmgard Booth. It was an interesting read. I'll be discussing it more in the religion thread. I don't know if anyone who isn't already interested in theology would be interested in reading it, but if you are then I'd say definitely give it a read.

iTrust
Mar 25, 2010

It's not good for your health.



Reaverbot posted:

I donít disagree. It probably helps that I wasnít looking for anything except a pulpy mystery story in the first place. If anything I was more amused than anything that it ended up basically being a goofy movie in book form

Just finished Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. Iím not generally a huge fantasy guy and I previously bounced off of the first Way Of Kings novel really hard, but I ended up liking this so much that I want to go back and give it another chance now. It was full of kind of simplistic but overall likable characters held together by a fun plot that kept subverting my expectations of it. It also (mostly) lacked in depth medieval warfare stuff that drives me away from a lot of fantasy Iíve tried to read recently

I picked up The Final Empire after reading on these forums that it was good. I loved it, I think I read the whole trilogy over the course of a few days. The follow up novels aren't as good, but the trilogy itself is really well done.

I just finished Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer and thought it was excellent.

It manages to take the themes present in a lot of Lovecraft and modernise them in a refreshing way, and was strong from start to finish. I couldn't put it down after the first few pages, finishing it in a single sitting. I was worried I wouldn't like the lack of characters, but the main PoV character is well written and is likeable in her own way, strong enough to the point of being able to carry the story through.

True to form of the Lovecraftian style though, its less about the characters and more about the wider mystery and overall uneasiness of the situation, which is told really well. It kept me engrossed from beginning to end and I immediately ordered the second and third books. I would say that it performs and functions perfectly well as a standalone story, which is a bonus point for the book.

Would recommend it if you're a fan of the more Lovecraftian style mystery and horror, where characters are your window into exploring a mystery rather than being the focal point.

thotsky
Jun 7, 2005

hot to trot


I just finished The Midnight Library. I usually stick to genre fiction, but I wanted to try something different and it had just won some award at GoodReads.

It's about a 35 year old woman living a lovely life who decides to kill herself, but ends up stuck in a metaphysical library where each book represents a different life that she might have had if she had made different choices. Basic multiverse setup. This library provides the opportunity to jump in and out of these lives in an effort to find the one for her.

The book is an extremely fast read, often quite sad, but sometimes a little funny. The moral of the story, and the upcoming twist at the end is painfully obvious just from the setup. The book suffers from the liberal misapprehension that we are in control of our own destiny and a complete disregard for material conditions. It feels like it just scratches the surface of the themes it sets out to explore, but keeping everything relatively straightforward does help move the story along so I am not sure I can really fault it for this. It feels intentional, maybe an editorial decision.

It's pretty unabashedly sentimental, but that's what I needed right now. All in all I enjoyed it.

thotsky fucked around with this message at 16:23 on Feb 7, 2021

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan


iTrust posted:

I picked up The Final Empire after reading on these forums that it was good. I loved it, I think I read the whole trilogy over the course of a few days. The follow up novels aren't as good, but the trilogy itself is really well done.

I just finished Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer and thought it was excellent.

It manages to take the themes present in a lot of Lovecraft and modernise them in a refreshing way, and was strong from start to finish. I couldn't put it down after the first few pages, finishing it in a single sitting. I was worried I wouldn't like the lack of characters, but the main PoV character is well written and is likeable in her own way, strong enough to the point of being able to carry the story through.

True to form of the Lovecraftian style though, its less about the characters and more about the wider mystery and overall uneasiness of the situation, which is told really well. It kept me engrossed from beginning to end and I immediately ordered the second and third books. I would say that it performs and functions perfectly well as a standalone story, which is a bonus point for the book.

Would recommend it if you're a fan of the more Lovecraftian style mystery and horror, where characters are your window into exploring a mystery rather than being the focal point.

The next book in the series isn't quite as haunting, but it's still entertaining. I just picked up the last book in the series recently, and I'm looking forward to it.

Dr. Yinz Ljubljana
Nov 25, 2013

if the portal didn't work, why am i guilty?


sephiRoth IRA posted:

The next book in the series isn't quite as haunting, but it's still entertaining. I just picked up the last book in the series recently, and I'm looking forward to it.

Currently in the midst of VanDerMeer's other trilogy called Ambergris and it's the fantasy equivalent - but in this one it's these tableaus of life at various points in history of this fantasy land with murderous mushroom people. Lovely.

lifg
Dec 4, 2000
The Young Turks committed the Armenian Genocide.


Muldoon

White Coke posted:

Finished The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, translated by R. H. Fuller with revisions by Irmgard Booth. It was an interesting read. I'll be discussing it more in the religion thread. I don't know if anyone who isn't already interested in theology would be interested in reading it, but if you are then I'd say definitely give it a read.

Whereís the religion thread?

Bilirubin
Feb 16, 2014

The sanctioned action is to CHUG!!!




Bleak Gremlin

lifg posted:

Whereís the religion thread?

https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3955347

Sandwolf
Jan 23, 2007

i'll be harpo



Dr. Yinz Ljubljana posted:

Currently in the midst of VanDerMeer's other trilogy called Ambergris and it's the fantasy equivalent - but in this one it's these tableaus of life at various points in history of this fantasy land with murderous mushroom people. Lovely.

I didn't like the turn the Southern Reach trilogy took in the second book, is Ambergris more consistent throughout?

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan


Sandwolf posted:

I didn't like the turn the Southern Reach trilogy took in the second book, is Ambergris more consistent throughout?

I'd love to hear more because I feel the same way. It wasn't a bad book, but it was a departure for sure. What points specifically were a downer for you?

Sandwolf
Jan 23, 2007

i'll be harpo



Book 1 was an incredibly atmospheric, suspenseful, thrilling story with enough open threads on the mystery to make me want to pick up the second one immediately.

And then the second one is like bureaucratic droll that strips out everything good about the first one. Iíve heard they return to Area X in the third one but Iím not sure itís enough at that point.

Karenina
Jul 9, 2013



Last night I finished A Dream in Polar Fog by Yuri Rytkheu, a story about a Canadian explorer stranded on the easternmost tip of Siberia and the local Chukchi community that takes him in. Spanning eight years, the narrative shows mutual suspicion giving way to trust, love, and community against a vivid backdrop of snow, ice, and wind. Ryktheu, who was himself Chukchi, depicts everyday life and traditions with painstaking detail, from shamanic rituals to hunts for walrus and nerpa, in which nothing is wasted. There's also some lovely bits of creation myth and cosmology, which Rytkheu lays out in greater detail in another work of his, The Chukchi Bible.

I found the ending a little underwhelming. All in all, though, it's a great read, especially in the wintertime.

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan


Sandwolf posted:

Book 1 was an incredibly atmospheric, suspenseful, thrilling story with enough open threads on the mystery to make me want to pick up the second one immediately.

And then the second one is like bureaucratic droll that strips out everything good about the first one. Iíve heard they return to Area X in the third one but Iím not sure itís enough at that point.

I definitely feel that. I wasn't completely put off by the shift in tone, but it definitely carved away some of the mystery.

I'm currently reading a different book (paradise lost for the first time) but the third southern reach is next on my list. I'll come back for a trip report

eke out
Feb 24, 2013



Sandwolf posted:

I didn't like the turn the Southern Reach trilogy took in the second book, is Ambergris more consistent throughout?

ambergris (which i love and recommend) has pretty radical stylistic changes between books, going from very Borges at the beginning (lots of in-universe "non-fiction" book reviews, encyclopedia articles, etc that're effectively short stories that combine together to paint a picture) to being like a dark noir thriller by the final book

Bilirubin
Feb 16, 2014

The sanctioned action is to CHUG!!!




Bleak Gremlin

Sandwolf posted:

Book 1 was an incredibly atmospheric, suspenseful, thrilling story with enough open threads on the mystery to make me want to pick up the second one immediately.

And then the second one is like bureaucratic droll that strips out everything good about the first one. Iíve heard they return to Area X in the third one but Iím not sure itís enough at that point.

Funny, I thought if anything the second book amped up the mystery, as bureaucracy ran up against just whatever the gently caress

plus the rabbits

Captain Hotbutt
Aug 18, 2014

Hello, I'd like to humiliate some hussies and I'm in a hurry.


Kept up with reading the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch after going through the short story collection ("Tales from the Folly") at the beginning of the year.

The Hanging Tree (Book #6)

Does some very interesting things with the big bad series villain, giving new levels of pathos and an extra dimension to his backstory. The macguffin chase that brings the mystery all together is shaky and under-thought, and is literally just handed off to someone else as a resolution. The series has a bad habit of having all the "cool wizard stuff" happen away from the main character, and its especially egregious here: our narrator is literally either just around the corner from it happening, or a couple of floors below it in the same building.

Still, I was entertained.

Lies Sleeping (Book #7)

Probably my favorite of the whole series. Great mystery, if a little easy to figure out. The previous complaint about being "just around the corner" from the action is demolished - there are big set pieces, including a magic car chase that was super fun. Lots of amazing moments with the cool villains and all the history-of-London stuff that's a hallmark of the entire series. The ending was an issue. Some plots resolved in a way I loved, others were iffy at best. It also feels like it should have been a definitive ending to the series, but chooses to tag some stuff on the end that was underwhelming.

False Value (Book #8)

I made it about 50 pages before I realized that it was making the same mistakes as book #5 (Foxglove Summer), my least favorite. It puts a barrier between the narrator and his great supporting characters and the structure that's been built up and explored for about a decade now. The revelations from the last book are absolute wheel-spinners. The slightly geeky undercurrent of humor that was present in the series is now just references-for-references sake.

I might just be burned out on reading them, but I feel like #7 was a good place to end it, and I might just do that.

Bilirubin
Feb 16, 2014

The sanctioned action is to CHUG!!!




Bleak Gremlin

Just finished Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. A crazed mishmash of a history of esotericism in the west coupled with post war European sensibilities and predatory publishing leads to a massive conspiracy.

Basically three editors start making fun of the weird occultist that are self publishing their nutty ideas by combining them into one overarching plan, which then becomes real.

The book, itself, is organized based on the serpherot of the kabbalistic Tree of Life.

Eco had a big brain.

The book is really a wild ride and is an excellent transition from more genre fiction to literature should you be interested in dipping a toe.

tetrapyloctomy
Feb 18, 2003

Okay -- you talk WAY too fast.

Nap Ghost

Bilirubin posted:

Just finished Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. A crazed mishmash of a history of esotericism in the west coupled with post war European sensibilities and predatory publishing leads to a massive conspiracy.

Basically three editors start making fun of the weird occultist that are self publishing their nutty ideas by combining them into one overarching plan, which then becomes real.

The book, itself, is organized based on the serpherot of the kabbalistic Tree of Life.

Eco had a big brain.

The book is really a wild ride and is an excellent transition from more genre fiction to literature should you be interested in dipping a toe.

If you haven't read The Name of the Rose yet, do so immediately. I think Foucault's Pendulum is probably the better book, but The Name of the Rose is probably my favorite Eco book.

Jolly Jumbuck
Mar 14, 2006

Cats like optical fibers.

tetrapyloctomy posted:

If you haven't read The Name of the Rose yet, do so immediately. I think Foucault's Pendulum is probably the better book, but The Name of the Rose is probably my favorite Eco book.

Agree. I had heard about Foucault's Pendulum sometime back on these forums and it had been on my list for years, but I finally got around to reading Eco's books in 2018. The Name of the Rose was the first one I read and it was amazing. Foucault's Pendulum was actually the second-to-last since they didn't have it at the library and I had to scrounge it at a used book store, but it was definitely an interesting read.

Lockback
Sep 2, 2006

All days are nights to see till I see thee; and nights bright days when dreams do show me thee.


tetrapyloctomy posted:

If you haven't read The Name of the Rose yet, do so immediately. I think Foucault's Pendulum is probably the better book, but The Name of the Rose is probably my favorite Eco book.

I'm finishing Baudolino now which I think is better than Rose, at least the story beats are better. Have not read Foucault though.

Bilirubin
Feb 16, 2014

The sanctioned action is to CHUG!!!




Bleak Gremlin

tetrapyloctomy posted:

If you haven't read The Name of the Rose yet, do so immediately. I think Foucault's Pendulum is probably the better book, but The Name of the Rose is probably my favorite Eco book.

I've read it a couple of times already. But not recently so...

Its good.

White Coke
May 29, 2015


Finished The Military Revolution by Geoffrey Parker yesterday. It's a rather important book in the realm of military history because it defends a thesis that in the 16th and 17th centuries Western Europe's changes in warfare represented dramatic breaks with the past which paved the way for Europe's conquest of the rest of the world. Even if you don't care about the whole debate it provides a nice overview of various changes that happened around 1500-1800. Most of the changes he writes about are technologically driven, but he does account for social changes that not only arose as responses but that in some cases led to the technological developments. It isn't a very long book, about 200 pages so if you want to dip your toe into military history this is a good place to start, just be aware that a lot of people dispute many of the arguments he makes. The edition I read, the 2nd revised, addressed some of those critiques at the end.

commielingus
Jan 23, 2021

by Athanatos


Just finished Declare by Tim Powers. If you like the spy genre and science-fiction, well, this has both! Itís set during WWII and the early Cold War with supernatural elements! Good prose and characters throughout.

Lockback
Sep 2, 2006

All days are nights to see till I see thee; and nights bright days when dreams do show me thee.


Just finished Baudolino by Umberto Eco (translated by William Weaver). I really, really like this, more so than The Name of the Rose. Baudolino is sorta like conman Forrest Gump 800 years earlier with a act of Gulliver's Travels mixed in. And it really lets Eco get weird in places. Compared to Rose (the only other Eco book I read) I liked that the tangents were more contained and more interesting. Monks discussing if Jeses laughed for the 3rd time was getting a bit dull, hearing about the history of heresy between the people with a huge umbrella foot vs the people with stomach faces was way more engaging, not to mention the super hot goat women.

Baudolino himself was a very good narrator (via Niketis), unreliable as he may be. A liar, a conman but earnest and loyal he was a fun storyteller for the book. I recommend this book a lot, especially if you liked Rose but want something maybe with a bit more story beats. And, of course, the ending was also pretty awesome.

White Coke
May 29, 2015


Finished The Red and the Black by Stendhal, translated by Horace B. Samuel. I liked it, but I wasn't super into it. My copy comes with various commentaries about it, and there's a review from the Chicago Tribune, January 21, 1899, which sums up how I feel about it really well: "As a study of a certain type of vicious humanity, "Red and Black" has its uses, and, it has its passages of undoubted power, though the book is too wordy and too misanthropic for wide popularity".

Reaverbot
Jun 13, 2010


Finished The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson. Man, I am having a hard time deciding how I feel about that coming off of how much I enjoyed The Final Empire. On one hand, the central most cast of the novel has a bunch of great character development. There's some fun new characters, more refined action sequences than the first book, and the ending is a great little roller coaster leading to an ending.

On the other hand, it's kind of a clusterfuck. It felt like the author was juggling way too many balls at once, and as a result a lot of subplots come and go seemingly at random and get handled in really unsatisfying and uninteresting ways in some cases. The first things that come to mind is everything involving the three main antagonist army leaders being really unsatisfying at their end. Especially Straff, whose subplot seems to consist entirely of coming to interesting possible ends to his story, surviving them in ridiculous ill-defined ways, and then dying in a throwaway sentence that was so quick and unimpactful that I had to go back and make sure I read it right and he was actually gone.. It also very offhandedly discarded multiple characters who had been around the whole story, or even from the previous novel, without it meaning much and ensuring their own plots went nowhere and felt like a total waste of time.

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TommyGun85
Jun 5, 2013


Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve

I decided to read this thing after watching the absolutely terrible movie and thinking they must have just botched the adaptation...but no, this novel is bad too.

Ive never read any YA so I wasnt sure what to expect, but the prose here is godawful.

Anyway, the plot itself hinges on the 'interesting' concept of mobile cities hunting each other down for resources. The author makes no attempt to explain how these cities generate the amount of energy that would be required to physically move an object of this size or how 'consuming' a smaller city would generate enough resources to make the act of pursuing the smaller city worth it. The concept is ridiculous.

The world is interesting however. There are normal cities, flying cities and even island cities. The main plot follows two characters who are exiled from a mobile city and try to stop it from launching a secret weapon it has.
If that wasnt 'interesting' enough, the main character's adoptive father is an undead cyborg terminator.


Childhood's End by Arthur C Clarke

This was one of the best sci-fi / alien novels Ive ever read. Despite being written in the 50s (old sci fi in the context of present day technology is always fun), it is a great philisophical tale of the consequences of evolutionary enlightenment of the human race.

Alien 'guardians' come to earth and peacefully shepherd humanity to their final evolutionary purpose, while hiding their mysterious intentions.


Anyone who played Xenogears as a kid should read it just for the character of Karellan alone.

Its also short at 250ish pages, definately worth a read.

TommyGun85 fucked around with this message at 01:31 on Feb 21, 2021

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