Books.

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Re: Books.

Post by Retiarius » Fri Jan 09, 2015 8:29 am

I remember reding that first Asimov short story long ago. I've also read the Hunger Games trilogy, so I've read both the first and the last story on your list.

I haven't watched the Hunger Games movies (I see maybe one movie a year—no one really to see them with). The books I found to be written well enough, and the author's prose is perhaps the best part of her style. The plot I found good enough, and the characters.

The premise and setting, however, I thought rather contrived:
  • The populations of each of the twelve districts controlled by Panem seemed rather small: all those that Katniss visited seemed to have a small town "everyone knows everyone" feeling. Certainly, their technologies were far short of Capital's except for perhaps the one that manufactured electronics (I don't remember the number of it).
  • On the subject of technology, Capital's was sufficiently advanced that they must have developed fusion technology to have the energy density to support it. Given that, why mine coal? They certainly don't need it for energy. If they have fusion they don't want coal for energy. It's messy, bulky, and not even within many orders of magnitude as efficient. There are better ways to get organic compounds (for things such as plastics) that coal might supply. If it is being mined to punish the inhabitants of the district, you might just as well have them breaking rocks.
  • And that brings me to the subject of punishment, which is presumably what the Hunger Games started as, until it devolved into a media gladiator spectacle. As punishment, it could hardly be more designed to cause a revolt if the wingnuts that first thought it up had tried. Let's take two random young people who, after the first decade or two, could have had nothing to do with the original revolts that started the games—each with possible friends, family and such in tight-knit communities—and make them fight to the death, and make said friends and family watch them die. Every year. For 75 years. The only question one has is no matter how brutal Capital was, why did it take 75 years for the revolt to happen? This should be on the Evil Overlord Lists of things not to do. If you're going to have a Hunger Games, you choose your candidates from criminals, foreigners, and volunteers (you'd be surprised), like the Romans did in the Coliseum games.
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Fri Jan 09, 2015 10:37 am

Electronics was district 3. A bit of an odd one out considering the careers always came from districts 2 and 4.

And, yes, district 12 totally has this "5000 inhabitants" feeling, but district 11, for example - agriculture, I assume it's Florida - was described as much, much larger.

I agree on your other points. "Fear will keep them in line." only works for so long... One aspect may be, though, that communication between the districts was strongly suppressed, and any single district revolting would have just led to swift retaliation. And as we find out later in Mockingjay, the Capital always knew of the existence of district 13, they just claimed its utter destruction to keep up the Mutually Assured Destruction agreement - 13, after all, had nuclear weapons just like the Capital.
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Re: Books.

Post by Dirty n Evil » Sat Jan 10, 2015 3:16 pm

Humorously, I also read the 'Hunger Games' trilogy a couple of months ago. I'd obviously heard quite a bit about them having worked in a bookstore when they all came out, and knew that the general consensus was that the first two books were very good - it was just the third that fell short of the mark. And I have a theory on what could have made that one better. In both 'Hunger Games' and 'Catching Fire', we're allowed to familiarize ourselves with the settings of District 12 and the capital. Those are our two familiar settings, the social environments where we've invested the most attachment to. It was inevitable through the course of the story that revolution was going to happen, so the reader knew to expect great changes from the typical pattern of the story... there weren't going to be another set of Hunger Games Katniss was to participate in. 'Mockingjay' took all that was familiar and removed nearly all of it away from the first page. We're adapting to the unfamiliar setting of District 13 with its very bland and sterile lifestyle, before heading off into war. It's a bit like going to a restaurant twice and really liking the food you had, but returning a third time - and finding that they're still of the same quality, but they're not an Italian eatery anymore, they're an English pub. I think there was simply too much to adapt to straight off in the third book.

And while I understand that many people liked the flipping of the trope that Katniss was the unemotional one being pursued by two boys who always seemed to be involved in their feelings... it felt a bit too contrived to me. Katniss seemed like a robot she was so devoid of feelings. I couldn't connect with her on an empathic level because there seemed to be too little to connect there with. If anything, I liked her sister Prim better. So naturally, when Prim gets killed I was upset. And actually, it didn't make sense to me... you have this figurehead who's helped tackle down this one government. So your idea to help keep her in check is to kill her sister? Even if the truth wasn't immediately obvious that you were one to kill Prim, you don't kill the one person they care about to keep them in check. No, you make them aware of how vulnerable that person is. If you kill them, you have no leverage - and worse still, a violent revolutionary with a grudge. D'oh!

Back to my point, I felt as though Suzanne Collins almost too deliberately made the dynamic of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale into the counter trope of the stoic male hero being pursued by two female romantic interests. Katniss is emotionally repressed to the point of PTSD from the age of sixteen. Now, I admit that I'm an emotional guy, but I think I've had more emotion at the numbest point in my life than Katniss did during her most emotional outbursts. That, coupled with her odd detachment from the natural reaction of how most teenagers of either gender generally react when their body is swimming with hormones at that age... I dunno. I almost wished that Suzanne Collins had just made Katniss asexual and aromantic to explain her nature, because that would have made more sense. And Peeta and Gale... tell me that these aren't feminine sounding names. Gale is a homophone for Gaile, a slightly out of style but still well known feminine name. And Peeta, while an original construct of a name, definitely seems to have feminine connotations with its sounds. The long "e" sound and ending in an "a" are far more popular with female names than male ones. Rosalita (Rose-a-lee-ta), Gisella (Gee-sell-a), even more common Amy (A-mee). It wouldn't surprised me if this was a planned aspect by Suzanne Collins. It just felt a bit too heavy handed to me.
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:02 pm

Reeta :P

Personally, I liked the strong turn Mockingjay did. In fact, I found HG and CF a little too much alike...
Concerning a certain character's death at the end of Mockingjay. IIRC: a) We never find out who truly firebombed those refugees, But the flashback to Gale and Beetee building very similar bombs, not to mention Katniss killing President Coin and finally breaking with Gale, strongly indicates it was indeed District 13 that committed the atrocity. BUT I don't think they did it to kill Prim, that was an "unfortunate collateral damage." They wanted to do something horrible and pin it on the Capitol to end the war once and for all. It was the Hiroshima of the revolution, except psychologically more sinister.
PTSD? Oh, yeah, that was totally my thought as well. As I have zero experience with it, I can't make any claims as to whether the descriptions of Katniss' inner world were well done, but it was quite clear she was strongly traumatized. Peeta as well, of course. But, yeah, the asexuality of it all got on my nerves. I realize that these are Young Adult books, and they're not going to contain the equivalent skullfuckery of a Clive Barker novel, but hell, even Twilight must have a LOT more romance and sex in it (way too much, probably... ;) )! I mean, she must have finally done it with Peeta sometime before the epilogue, that's how kiddys are made, but we of course hear nothing about it.

Anyway!

THE BOOK PROJECT - 40 BOOKS IN TWO WEEKS!

I'm far from being done! My stack of reasonably short books is still tall, and I had taken a total of eleven of them home with me. Since I have pretty much grazed off all the really short ones, I think it's going to be very hard to do another 20 in 7 days thing, so as a reasonable goal, I decided on 40 in total, meaning I just have to get two done each day. But each one extra is a nice bonus.

DAY 2.1:

Ben Bova - City of Darkness: This one turned out to be a really quick read, just about 2.3 hours. In some not-too-distant future, the inhabitants of the US have moved out of the big cities into well-regulated (but dystopically stifling) suburbs where the air is clean, the cars electric, and no one is out at night due to a hard curfew. But New York city still exists, under a huge dome, and is open in the summer months as a tourist destination. At least a small part of it. A rebellious teenager breaks away from his conservative parents and travels there on the last open weekend. He meets a girl in a bar, they spend the night together in a cheap motel (I was amused since the kid was 16 but it was seen as something entirely normal - the book is from the early 70s), and the next morning, he gets beaten up by a bunch of thugs whose leader he accosted the evening before (said thug claiming the girl was his). He loses his ID and everything he has except the clothes on his back. He tries to get out, but the girl shows up in the last moment, warning him that he will be executed if he is caught without an ID. He follows her back into the city and soon finds out that the tale about NYC being empty the rest of the year is a total lie. Instead, the parts of town away from the tourist sections are full of desperate, starving and warring youth gangs, people who don't exist anymore in the official system, people who mostly belong to minorities (the kid has never encountered a black person in the suburbs before!). The protagonist must join one of these gangs to survive, luckily, he is a little technical genius who can fix things like refrigerators, air conditioning and generators. While it felt like one more YA novel, it was pretty dark and violent. Reminded me somewhat of The Purge - it was like the second movie, just all year long.

Ben Bova - The Watchmen I - Star Watchman: A long time ago, 1959, Ben Bova wrote his first novel, The Star Conquerors. Some actually consider it his best, and it was long out of print, demanding extreme prices. Luckily, it has recently been republished, but I still don't have it. In that book, the expanding Terran Confederation encounters the stellar empire of The Masters, a race of AIs which also command subservient organic races. The book describes the war between the Terrans and the Saurians, the main army of the Master Empire. Humanity wins. Humanity itself is driven to expand and enlarge its territory, because somewhere out there lurk "The Others". It has been discovered that about a million years ago, a "first mankind" became intelligent, finally space-faring, on Earth, and then an alien race attacked and totally blasted them into oblivion. No one knows if the Others are still out there, but mankind must prepare. The Star Watchmen are established as a driving force of the interstellar war machine.
I had initially overlooked this book due to its 400+ pages, but then figured out that it was a compendium of books 2 and 3 in the Others/Watchmen universe. The description of Book 3 follows below. The first book deals with a planet at the rim of the Empire. Here, the native population, very humanoid aliens, are getting restless. The empire of Man has decreed that this planet should be used for synthetic food processing industries, and they have begun to disown the natives, drive them from their farms. The book (which was Bova's second) is from 1964, and in an introduction, Bova tells that it is strongly influenced by the Cold War mentality of the times - proxy wars and all that. In this case, a rebel guerilla group amongst the natives hires an army of an alien race which, a century earlier, had been an ally of the Terran Confederation in their battle with the Masters, but now things looked quite different (Mankind: USA; these aliens: Soviet Union; Masters: Third Reich...). A Star Watchman is sent into this mess, trying to prevent a global war on the planet, which could lead to complete interstellar war between mankind and the other alien race. A part of the novel features a massive battle between the invaders and a mechanized division of Space Marines which was very well executed. :) All in all, a very fun book! Took me a bit over 4 hours.

Ben Bova - The Watchmen II - The Dueling Machine: While I did not own a single volume of Star Watchman, I had this book, in essence, twice. Since I was at it, I just read on in The Watchmen and later placed both on a big stack of books in what was formerly my room at home... A second curiosity is that I knew part of this book! It is essentially three connected novellas of roughly 60 pages each, and the first story, "The Perfect Warrior", was initially published elsewhere, and somehow, a looong time ago, I must have read it because I was totally familiar with it. It seems this book predates (in the Others universe, not in when it was actually written) Star Watchmen, as there is only talk of the Terran Confederation here, not of the Empire. Though maybe Bova was just forgetful... The stellar expansion of mankind is not identical with the actual borders of the Confederation, and this book plays on worlds outside of the Confederation. A crazy dictator is threatening the peaceful and rich worlds of the Acquitaine cluster, using... the Dueling Machine! This device (Bova: "We had invented Virtual Reality long before it was called that!") allows two duelists to battle "to the death" in a "Matrix" built out of the thoughts of each (usually there are two rounds, with each duelist being allowed to set the surroundings and weapons in one duel). While it can be rather harrowing, this device should allow duels, which have become very much in fashion in the Acquitaine cluster, to end non-lethally. But now, the crazy dictator (VERY Adolf Hitler) has sent a "perfect warrior" (I could not get Ivan Drago from Rocky IV out of my head) who challenges the heads of state - and kills them in the machine!!! The inventor of the machine, an old physics professor, is called upon to solve this mystery, and he is accompanied by a bumbling, ofttimes foolish Star Watchman (who just baaarely made the grade). Together, they form something of a Holmes/Watson duo. The three stories were fun, but less exciting than the other book. Another 4+ hour read. One thing that sucked was that, as so often, I did not get too far into this book before I needed to go to sleep (I had been interrupted terribly often during the day, NOT a good environment for continuous reading...), and it became even worse the following day, took me until about eight in the evening to finish it.
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Tue Jan 13, 2015 12:44 am

Well, while I'm at it...

DAY 2.2

Despite it already being mid-evening, I decided to immediately follow up with the next Day. I was just planning to read two books anyway.

Ben Bova - As On A Darkling Plain: Goodreads seems to not yet have caught on that this book indeed belongs to the Others universe (it's stated on Wikipedia). It is, indeed, the prequel to the other three volumes, concerning the actual discovery of the "first mankind" and the remnants of the Others. It consists of several short introductory pieces, and three novella-length stories, two of which had been published independently beforehand. The protagonists are something of a dysfunctional love triangle, two men, one woman, all three scientists. One of the guys is totally obsessed with the "Pillars of Titan", a kind of Stonehenge of, dare I say it, monoliths of utterly alien origin and purpose on Saturn's largest moon. In an effort to expand the knowledge of mankind, different missions are chosen. The other guy gets sent to a mission into the deep atmosphere of Jupiter where he and his colleagues discover gigantic lifeforms. A lot of the description was scientifically off by today's knowledge, but it was really cool nonetheless. Guy #1 and the woman fly to Sirius (sub-light) where they discover a barely habitable planet and a small colony of cavemen. They find out that these are the last remnants of the "first mankind" and that there must be "Others" who wiped them out. The final part, which was written for this book, concerns the return to Titan and the solution to the mystery of the monoliths. Also, the rather bitter resolution of the love triangle.
I really liked the book, especially since it captured the curiosity (and fanaticism, at times) of scientists and especially astrophysicists well. :)) It's a real pity, though, that these four books are the only ones in the Others universe. We never get to meet the Others! Bova is still alive, but in his eighties, and from the reviews of his newest books, he seems to be going off the deep end and just writing crap these days. :((

Frank Herbert - Whipping Star: FINALLY, ALIENS! :YMALIEN: Oh, so often, I have decried the "humans in makeup and rubber suits" aliens of Star Trek or Babylon 5 (no matter how much I like that series)... This, the first of only two books in Herbert's ConSentiency universe (and even more than Bova's Others, it's a TRUE pity there are not more!!! [There seem to be two short stories I do not know yet, though.]), features a bunch of alien races that truly honor the word! The Gowachin, who have ritualized the practise of Law to the utmost that courts become arenas in which the losing party (i.e., prosecutor or defense lawyer) is killed by the winner... The PanSpechi, creatures with five bodies but just one ego, who "live" for maybe two decades before a process sets in which forces them back to their creche, and another of the five bodies becomes sentient... The potentially extremely aggressive Wreaves, a species where the females always take two males in a breeding triad, often changing them. Each partaking in such a triad extends the "family", and if you insult one Wreave, all in the family pledge eternal vendetta across the stars and ages... The Taprisiots, which look like little confers, with top and bottom cut off (the needles are speech appendages), who are grumbly and like to complain in squeaky voices, and who use some kind of hyperspace power to allow mindcalls across the universe at instantaneous speed... All these species (and mankind, of course) have united in a quite fragile "empire" called the ConSentiency.
But topping everything are the Caleban. Just 19 standard years before Whipping Star takes place (Wikipedia claims 90, maybe I misread?), the Caleban revealed themselves to the ConSentiency, each of the beings carrying some kind of hypertechnological artifact as a gift. The most important are the jumpdoors, small, hand-held devices which allow the creation of portals (yes, like in the game) to any place in the universe if you just give the correct coordinates. Then you just step through. It's supposed to feel a bit like walking through molasses, otherwise, travel is essentially instantaneous. As an astrophysicist's aside musings, I may point out that these things are really fuck-all advanced, since they are able to follow fixed points on the surfaces of worlds independent of any "peculiar motion" they have! So if you are on a planet in the Andromeda galaxy, and want to travel to, say, the Statue of Liberty on Earth, you can, independent of Earth's rotation, movement around the Sun, the Sun's movement through the galaxy, etc. :-o The Caleban themselves are hyperdimendional entities (I had the think of Interstellar's "bulk beings" or the "First Ones" from Babylon 5), who are able to project, well, "communicators" into our 3D reality which travel in "beach balls", spheres some meters in diameter which are essentially invulnerable and pretty much not bound to the laws of physics... Even so, the Caleban is not really visible, it is described as an "unpresence" which cannot truly be looked at.
Another specialty of ConSentiency is BuSab - the Bureau of Sabotage. Turns out one day, some very intelligent but naive entities managed to eliminate almost all red tape from the process of government, making it extremely efficient. TOO efficient. Government became too good at governing, which led to catastrophes. A "few brave men (and aliens)" formed a task force to slow down the pace of government, and this became BuSab, an organization of subverters, anarchists and monkeywrenchers - and their best agent is Jorj X. McKie – Saboteur Extraordinary! A short, stocky, more or less black dude with a shocking mop of red hair, he is some kind of mix of an impish pixie and Loki. :P All in all, BuSab sounds like some kind of huge injoke by Herbert...
Now, the actual plot... Is at least as crazy as everything written above. Recently, Caleban have started to disappear from the ConSentiency. Each time one does, millions of "lower" sentients die or go bugshit insane. And now, it seems only a single one is left. Alas, this Caleban has entered a contract with eccentric hyperquintillionaire Mliss Abnethe (her wealth is said to equal the production capacity of 500 fully developed planets) who seems to derive pleasure from... having the Caleban whipped with an ancient bull leather whip!! Like, WTF?? And this continued whipping is driving the Caleban to "ultimate discontinuity". The BEEEEG problem is, when Fannie Mae (that is what the Caleban calls itself) dissolves, anyone, everything that ever used a jumpdoor, will die instantaneously!!!!! Which is essentially the entire fucking ConSentiency except for some mewling infants... :| So it is McKie's task to save the entire universe... The small problem is, the Caleban's take their contracts very, very seriously...
After many books which were pretty much on the YA level, this one was a plunge into the cold waters of extremely advanced SF. I knew Herbert was a philosopher who was able to espouse highly complex concepts from his later Dune novels, and Whipping Star (It turns out in the end the the actual 3D extrusions of the Caleban are STARS - specifically, Fannie Mae is Tychone in the Pleiades, which explains the title) was of similar density. It was just 176 pages long but took me nearly five hours to read. And, alas again, I only got about 30 pages in on Monday night. I got up early on Tuesday to go to the movies, and did not manage to finish the book until I was on the train to Bremen to spend New Year's with my best friend on Wednesday...
As you may have surmised from my long exaltation, I LOVED this book, I'd say it was just a wee bit behind Mockingjay, and otherwise the best thing I've read since Burning Chrome. :)

Anyway, so much for the very split Day 2.2... But I'm not finished yet, will try to keep it a bit shorter.

I actually had quite a bit of time between movies on Tuesday, and continued to read Joyland. went to bed early, then finished it the next morning before my train left. Yet another wonderful book! :-bd So, this is part of the "Hard Crime" series, and while it does contain a murder mystery (which gets solved toward the end) most of it is a coming of age tale in the early 70s. It was extremely well written (I'd expect nothing else from King :) ), and reminded me a lot of "The Body" or parts of "It". Highly recommended.

Not long before I arrived in Bremen, I began the next book, but first...

THIS ENDS 2014!!

And lo, I not only managed to reach 350 books in the end, it was actually 349 left!!! :ymparty: :ymparty: :ymparty: :ymparty:

Back at home, I had not made much progress with the book I had began on the 31st... And since the following days would be quite full, I decided to start ANOTHER book - and finish it - first. To my great astonishment, I had not just found Joyland on my mom's bookshelf, but also the very newest of his books, Stephen King's Revival!! As a hardcover and everything. No idea what had made my mom buy it, but it's quite amusing to me that she is on this Stephen King, um, revival trip. She had hated Tommyknockers way back in the late 80s and stopped... But when I told her about Under the Dome and 11.22.63, she bought both, loved them, and now is buying King books without me even knowing. :)) So, anyway, Revival, for the most part, is another coming of age tale, but a lot darker one. A kid, the youngest of four brothers and one sisters, meets, at age 6, the new priest of his little Maine town. The priest, a young man who is fascinated by electricity, serves well for three years, then loses his precious wife and child to a horrible traffic accident (total gore). He gives the "Sermon from Hell" in which he argues with Dawkinsonian intensity that God can't exist if things like his wife's death are allowed to happen. Of course, this gets him fired, and he disappears from the protagonists. This kid later joins a band, gets a sweetheart, but then turns to drugs, and by the early '90s, he's a death's door as a heroin addict. and here he meets the preacher again, who is now a circus performer (yay, Joyland even gets a mention!) making "Portraits in Lightning". And the priest... heals the hero of his addiction. But with some weird side effects (Something... happened!) On the other hand, he gets him a job in a recording studio, and over 15 years pass before their pathes cross again. Now the priest seems to have regained his faith, and become a faith healer... But the people he heals aren't all... right... anymore... I'll not say anything about the rest of the plot, except to say that it finally tips over into a fucking black abyss. I can imagine that weak-hearted readers might get an existential crisis after reading this book. :ymdevil: King himself has stated he is glad it's out and that he can leave it behind... Oh, one more thing, one of the writers he thanks in the beginning is H. P. Lovecraft... While the book failed to completely entrance me, the progression from period piece over coming of age to mystery to totalt jävla mörker was very well done.

Okay, final book (for now)! Frank Herbert - The Dosadi Experiment. This is the second - and last - ConSentiency novel. I began it, as mentioned, on the 31st already. On the way back, I mostly slept, so I did not get very much further. Then read Revival in two days, and finished TDE a week ago, Monday, my last day at home, before driving here through the night. This book is somewhat more straightforward compared to Whipping Star. Some hundreds of years ago, someone has placed a bunch of humans and Gowachin on a planet called Dosadi, which is a quite horrible world to live on - not totally inhospitable, but close to it. The orignal "settlers" got their minds wiped, then the entire planet was surrounded by the "God Wall", a shimmering barrier outside the atmosphere that prevents essentially any astronomical observations, which could determine that there's actually a universe out there. Then you let the population breed, under constant harsh pressure for survival. What do you get several dozen generations later? The perfect warriors, a planet of something like 100 million inhabitants, each totally conditioned for eternal vigilance, battle, and cutthroat level survival. Now, there are indications that Dosadi is about to break free and spew it's nemesis upon the unwitting universe. to prevent this, the ones behind the Dosadi Experiment plan to simply annihilate the entire planet! the God wall is the creation of a contracted Caleban, and it can probably wipe out the planet with a single thought... Unless Jorj X. McKie, Saboteur Extraordinary, can travel there and somehow stop the avalanche. This book eschewed communications with Calebans for the arena of Gowachin Law when it comes to complex reading. Wow. Anyone who has studied law and likes SF should read this. :P It was a cool book, but less good than Whipping Star, imho.

Thus ended my vacation. 11 books read!! And I'll stop here too, for now. ;)
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Wed Jan 14, 2015 2:16 pm

We interrupt our regular BLA for this emergency BLUB! :P

Two days ago, I made two further book orders. The first was cheap. On Amazon.de, I got two books for under 1 Euro each (though with 3€ S&H in each case...). Jean M. Auel's The Land of Painted Caves and Robert Silverberg's The Mountains of Majipoor. I'll comment more whenever I get around to reading them and other associated books.
The much larger order was done via Amazon.com and again, I had books sent to my aunt in the US, in the hope that my mom can somehow get them to me cheaply when she goes there in the next months. Anyway, I have finally fulfilled a dream ten years in the making, and have completed White Wolf's Michael Moorcock Omnibus series with the last three missing pieces: Kane of Old Mars, Legends from the End of Time and Count Brass. This bled my wallet, the books (including S&H) cost 29, 40 and 49$... :| And since the Euro is pretty weak right now, it was not much less in Euros. Now let's just hope they get here fine! And since I was doing Moorcock, I also got the volumes 2 and 3 of the newest (and likely last) Elric saga (the Dreamquest Trilogy): The Skrayling Tree and The White Wolf's Son. These were a lot cheaper - while 3.99$ S&H were involved in both cases, The Skrayling Tree only cost one cent. :P The other one was also under 1$.

This brings me to something I might have already included a few posts up, in terms of true temporal order: My new year's resolution 2015!

Easy A: Read 50 books of 15000 pages length.
Top Shelf: Read 75 books of 20000 pages length.
Mission Impossible: Read 100 books of 30000 pages length.

Considering I already managed 51 last year (40 just in the last two months), Easy A should be, well, easy to do, and Top Shelf is likely to be reached as well. Of course, I'm aiming for the impossible... ;)

Concerning this, I'll need to do a bit of - no pun intended - bookkeeping! Especially in terms of the Moorcock omnibus volumes, I own a lot of the contained books as separate, single novels as well. Back when I bought most of them, in 2003, I just indiscriminately grabbed everything... :D At times, there is a load of overlap. For example, the first omnibus, The Eternal Champion, contains three books and one short story, and one of the books exists under two different titles (that's messed up and happens a lot with Moorcock... 8-| ) and I actually own both. So reading this single omnibus will: a) add the pages of the omnibus, and nothing else to my page count; b) add three books to my New Year's resolution count (I don't count the short stories, and essentially not the omnibus, just the contained books); c) subtract a total of five books from my "volume count" (the one that hit 349 at the end of last year) since I can shelve both the omnibus and the four separate books as read.
Reading all 17 omnibus volumes should reduce my volume count by 52, and add 49 books toward my year's goal!! And considering I will probably also read the Jerry Cornelius Chronicles (2 volume, 4 goal) and the Dreamquest trilogy (3 each, as normal), that already places me beyond 50 - IF I get it done! :D

A similar situation arises with R. A. Salvatore, though in that case, I do not have that many extra books as single volumes beyond the omnibus volumes - just 9, it seems. But there, I also own the first and second Demon Wars Sagas, another 7 books which, for some reason, have not been published in omnibus form. I miiiight get around to those around Christmas, in a very optimistic, um, reading. :P
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Re: Books.

Post by Azrael » Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:45 am

Hey, Alex, you are aware that The Land of Painted Caves is book six of a series, yes?
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Thu Jan 15, 2015 3:15 am

Yes, and I bought it since I read books 1-4 back in the '90s and have The Shelters of Stone lying here at the bottom of my "high priority stack". :P

I am ALSO aware BOTH books are supposed to suck vacuum but I'll read them anyway just to see it through to the end. ;)

Ad if you really wish to know, I also own Silverberg's two Majipoor trilogies (Valentine Cycle and Prestimion Cycle) and was only missing Mountains, though it seems a new short story collection appeared in 2013 called Tales of Majipoor.
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Re: Books.

Post by Asaryu » Thu Jan 15, 2015 6:35 am

Urgh. Jean Auel's books.

The first one was great and interesting, but the rest just sort of drift off into caveman porn. They were fun to read before bed (hur hur) but really. Meh.

I just finished Holly Black's The Darkest Part of the Forest. I now want to go back and read her backlog of books again. God I love her storytelling and her characters are amazing.

I am now listening to the audio of Amy Poehler's memoir, Yes, Please. It's a great production, but I'm finding myself pretty bored. As someone who doesn't really watch tv, I'm finding that a lot of what she talks about is going over my head and I can't bring myself to care. I read Tina Fey's memoir as well a while ago and I loved that, so I thought this one would be good too, but I'm just not feeling it the same way. *sadface*
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Thu Jan 22, 2015 10:11 pm

I shan't deny it, I enjoyed their caveman porn aspect. ;)) Except, maybe, the one million and one exhortations of how his cock fits just perfectly into her pussy...

Anyway!

After returning here, I felt like there was no way around it... and started re-reading Anne Rice's Exit to Eden, which I had dropped 4.5 years ago. But, I must confess, I have not finished it yet. I got to page ~ 100 (~130 was where I had stopped earlier) and then just gave up for some other stuff. I am going to finish it soon... ish, though. :P But the following Sunday, I switched:

DAY 2.3

Michael P. Kube-McDowell: Isaac Asimov's Robot City Book 1: Odyssey: In the late '80s, after he himself had written multiple (extremely awesome, I may say) "connection volumes" establishing a common universe for his most successful series (e.g., Robots and Empire, the Second Foundation Trilogy), Asimov finally changed his mind and began allowing others to write novels based on his creations. The first series deriving from this decision is the hexalogy Isaac Asimov's Robot City. These books came out of a writing competition and are still based directly on Asimov's specifications, and the grand master reviewed them all afterward as a kind of "referee", and wrote introductions to them. As I found out digging around on Wikipedia, this series is followed by a second hexalogy, Robots and Aliens, which I don't own any of (and which is at least extremely hard to find here in Germany), and then there are multiple other series by different authors which partially also feature the two lead characters from Robot City... I have some of these books but none of the series is complete so far.
So, the first novel is something of an origin story. A young man, still a teenager, awakens in a lifepod on a barren asteroid. He has a weird selective amnesia. He does not know who he is or anything of his past, but can speak normally and will soon find out that he has had a lot of factual knowledge crammed into him, for example, he is an expert roboticist. He is soon rescued by a bunch of strange robots who seem to be mining this asteroid... no, sifting it, looking for something. The asteroid is attacked by an alien raiding ship [and anyone familiar with Asimov's main works will be astonished here, as there have never been any aliens, it's always only mankind and the robots!], in the last moment, the young man, who calls himself Derec, flees, and the object the robots are looking for is found and gets into his hands. It is one of the "Keys to Perihelion", a small artifact which can transport you to Perihelion, a nothingplace which is "closer than any other place to all places in the universe". On the alien's ship, he befriends a servile dog-like alien and meets a young human woman who claims to know him. They manage to flee, and following further adventures and of course disingenuous ways of using the laws of robotics, they end up in... Robot City, at the end of the book. On top of a giant pyramid. They climb down, hide the key, and are welcomed by the city's population of advanced robots (who turn out to be the same general type as those on the asteroid). BUT...

Mike McQuay: Isaac Asimov's Robot City Book 2: Suspicion: BUT they are also arrested, and accused of having commited murder! For before them, one other human had come to city, and now he is dead! And robots, of course, can't kill. So the two other humans must have done it. At the same time, construction work in the city, which is made up of small modular units other systems might label "computronium", is running amuck and getting out of hand, threatening the city's destruction. Here, I discovered a continuity error. At the end of Book 1, Derec, who is allegedly David, and Katherine spent a day and night on the flat top of the pyramid, but now it is stated that each afternoon, torrential rainfall drenches the city, and this has been ongoing since shortly after the other man - named David... - was killed.

William F. Wu: Isaac Asimov's Robot City Book 3: Cyborg: The computer systems of the city report that three further entities have entered the city who are not recognized as robots. One, we find out, is a cyborg, a human brain transplanted into a robot body, and it is becoming more and more unstable. But how to find a robot that is not a robot, and one that is not bound by the Laws and could become a killer??

I liked the first book of the series, it was a good adventure story. The other two dropped off somewhat, and in general, I was not terribly motivated to continue the series immediately. So I decided to switch gears. I dug deep into my book stacks and found two further books by Ursula K. Le Guin which fit into my Book Project in terms of length.

DAY 2.4

Ursula K. Le Guin - The Eye Of The Heron: It's several hundred years in the future, and things have not gone well for Earth. Wars, famine, climate disasters... In a move I personally deem unrealistic, interstellar travel is developed on the one hand, but on the other hand, what does the great nation of Brazil-America use it for? They pack up several thousand criminals in two ships and send then to a moist but very habitable planet that is named Victoria, to form a new kind of Australia. Sixty years later, a movement named the People of the Peace forms, who begin a march from Moscow to Lisboa, and on to Montreal, generally pissing off the world superpowers by being insufferable hippies. :P So the great nation of Canamerica buys the last remaining starship from Brazil-America and sends another 2000 People of the Peace to Victoria... Another fifty years pass, and the two groups of unlikely colonists have not really merged. There's the city, a despotic Latin-American banana republic full of dominating machos and servile women, and the Town, poor but proud, who till the fields and feed the city on semi-slavery. You can pretty much imagine the rest. Revolt, uprising, being beaten down, etc. While, like always, nicely written, the whole social morality seemed very heavy-handed and black & white to me. Not one of Le Guin's better works, and in that way, quite similar to The Word For World is Forest... But I did not despair, and it became better!

Ursula K. Le Guin - A Fisherman of the Inland Sea: A rather new (mid-'90s) short story collection. The first 80 pages contained multiple stories, some funny, some very bleak, some good, some rather boring. It's the last three I'd like to talk about more, as they belong to the Hainish Cycle, and all of them were excellent.
The Shobies' Story: A new technology is being theorized about and developed in the temporal physics labs of Urras and Annares and Ve: churten, which seems to be the Cetian word for "skip". It is the matter equivalent of the ansible. To quote an old techno song: "Travel to any place in the Universe... without movement." Instant teleportation, goodbye NAFAL. The technology has been implemented in AI craft - worked perfectly. Then they loaded "Laika and Co." on board - the animals came back completely unharmed. Now it is time to test a human crew. These are the Shobies. And mixed bunch who mostly did not know each other beforehand, they first spend a month at a beach resort, a traditional get-to-know-each-other ritual. This was a wonderful part of the story and reminded my wistfully of Firefly ("You're flying with us! You're not looking for a destination, you're looking for a crew!"). They then travel out of the system and churten to a "shit planet", a cold world covered in perpetual brown smog, with nothing but bacteria as lifeforms. But it's a destination, something that can be examined to prove churten works. But soon, they discover that their perceptions of reality are becoming more and more warped...
Dancing to Ganam: After the Shobies finally got back, Commander Dalzul, the Great Hero of Earth, who ended the fundamental terror reign of the Unionists (fanatic monotheistic religious guys who make the Tea Party look like left-wing intellectuals) and was revered as a God, has a brilliant idea. Since churten seems to mess with perception of groups, why not travel alone? So he takes a ship to a new and as-yet unexplored habitable world (a NAFAL ship was dispatched decades ago but is still 30 years out), but instead of appearing in orbit, he manifests over the fields right in front of the city Ganam! He comes out of the ship as a large number of people approach him (their technological level somewhat reminiscent of ancient Egypt, or perhaps the Middle and South American pre-Conquistadores cultures). To show he is unarmed, he strips completely naked (and since I kept envisioning him as either Buzz Lightyear or Mr. Incredible, this was not a pretty sight in my mind! =)) ). He is approached by a voluptuous woman who does the same, and then she drags him into a temple and gives him the night of his life. :D Exploring the Universe - SO AWESOME! Anyway, Dalzul returns, and his recollection of events and the recordings of the spy eyes (yep, made a porn movie right away!) are in complete agreement. It worked! Now Dalzul has gathered three more Terrans, building on the theory that he will be in a kind of harmony with his planetmen and -women (the other man is one of the Shobies, actually), and so churten even with a larger group should work. To really harmonize, they start singing and dancing on the way out (thus the title of the story). Everything seems to work fine, and soon after arrival, it seems Dalzul is to become the new king! But for some strange reason, his queen-to-be has, um, returned to her husband's house, and soon enough, the story develops differently for Dalzul and the other three...
Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea: This story, temporally, takes place over a long time period which encompasses the two other stories above. It begins as a coming-of-age tale on the planet O, where the main pastime is marriage brokering. You see, on O, everyone (or almost) is fully bisexual. And depending (iirc) on which part of the day you were born in, you are part of the "moieties" Morning and Evening. Now, marriages consist of FOUR people, a "sedoretu". Two male, two female, and two each of one moiety, always one male and female. You are expected to have sexual relations with both the male and female of the opposite moiety, but sex with the other-gendered person of your own moiety is absolutely taboo and considered incest (such two person marriages do happen but these couples usually leave the planet!). Anyway, the protagonist is a middle-aged, simple (?) farmer writing the scientists of the Ekumen about his life. The beginning is another coming-of-age on his family's farm, which contains a small oddity. His mother is a true Terran of Japanese ancestry (and he likes to hear her tell the Fisherman story). He grows up with his older othersister (daughter of his othermother and thus not biologically related) and his younger wombsister, and finally, he decides to go to Ve (the second planet of the Hainish system, "only" 4 ly away) to study temporal physics. On the night of his departure, his othersister admits her love for him. He reacts kinda like Gary, and she runs out crying... On Ve (he is 21, everyone on O four years older), he hears about churten theory and dives into it! He had promised his parents to return after two years to visit (i.e., ten years on O), but he gets so caught up he spends ten years on Ve (and during this time the occurrences from the other two stories happen) before finally returning to set up a churten receiver on O and test his "double field theory". He goes to visit his family, he is 31, but they all have aged 18 years, his othersister and wombsister have married as part of a sedoretu (including a homosexual lover of the protagonist in his youth), his parents are old... It is not a happy homecoming. He returns to the capital, finishes his lab setup, and... churten to Ve. It works. He discusses with his colleagues for some days, then travels back... to an empty room. He soon finds out his special double field has transported him 18 years into the past, exactly to the day he first left via NAFAL for Ve. You can imagine how the story ends. ;)
I read several of Le Guin's most famous works many, many years ago (The Earthsea Trilogy, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed), and distinctly recall not liking Earthsea that much, I guess the other two books were good... Anyway, against this uncertainty of the past, I'll still claim that Another Story is the best thing I've read by UKLG so far. :)

Ursula K. Le Guin - City of Illusions: And now back into the past, 1967 (and it seems my book is indeed from that year or shortly thereafter), the third novel of the original Hainish trilogy. A man awakens in a forest, he is prime of body but empty of mind. He stumbles around, is found by a group of humans, who recognize him to be an alien! For while his body is that of a man, his eyes are those of a cat. A 15-year old girl is assigned to teach him, and in the coming years, she becomes his lover. He learns again quickly to speak and control his body, much faster than a baby does, but his past remains tabula rasa. After nearly seven years, he decides he must leave. He has heard he is on Earth, and once there was something called the League of All Worlds. But then, the Enemy came, the Shing, the Liars, and they conquered the League and dispersed it. Now they hold dominion over the Earth, destroying any larger gathering of Humans to prevent them from ever rising up again. The semi-farmstead where he lives, called a House, is the only human settlement for 40 miles! It is seemingly placed in the Adirondacks. He travels west, the the great Inland River, across the plains where now the buffalo roam again, and finally into the (Rocky) Mountains and to Es Toch, City of Lies, stronghold of the Shing, where he will discover his true identity, and his fate - the fate of dozens of worlds...
The first part of this book was, well, I described it, one of those rather typical "travel across a post-apocalyptic landscape involving loads of dangers" tale similar to Zelazny's "Damnation Road" or King's "The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger", with the difference that in this case, the apocalypse was rather forgiving and Earth has quickly renaturalized. The second, less good part, was more typical for Le Guin, a kind of psycho thriller set against an SF background. The book sits in a somewhat weird place in the chronology of the Hainish Cycle, before the founding of the Ekumen but obviously long after the League of Worlds period, and it is, so I have the feeling, a period rather ignored by later works (no idea if it is referred to in Left Hand of Darkness which seems to be early-Ekumen period). I don't think there is any UKLG story which actually tells of the defeat of the Shing.

Well, now my interest was piqued! My Day 2.4 had been the first of a 2.5 week vacation, and instead of returning to Robot City or starting on Wheel of Time, I continued with Le Guin.
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Re: Books.

Post by Dirty n Evil » Wed Feb 11, 2015 12:51 pm

Hey, does everyone remember a while back when I mentioned that I had helped my friend Ben edit his book? Well, it's coming out... and it's out already for the Kindle. Here's the link - Walls of Dalgorod. If I was to describe it, it's steeped in Russian flavor (Russian history is one of Ben's favorite interests) with an edgy take on the fantasy genre that's not unlike Ron E. Howard. And, he's apparently already working on the second book while plotting a third. Just mentioning it out there for those interested in giving a new book a try. Did I mention that I edited the book? ;)
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Re: Books.

Post by Retiarius » Thu Feb 12, 2015 12:32 am

I downloaded the sample to my Kindle. I'll let you know what I think, although I'm busy writing my second book myself. The first is done but for the illustrations.
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Re: Books.

Post by Dirty n Evil » Thu Feb 12, 2015 1:35 am

I look forwards to the review, Retarius! I will confess that I haven't read the updated version - Ben took to heart many of the revisions that I suggested, and confessed that one of his favorite subplots had to be removed for the sake of that evil being known to authors only as "word count". I'm curious myself as to how it turned out.
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Re: Books.

Post by Radbaron » Thu Feb 12, 2015 2:53 am

I bought it, might get around to reading it :)
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Re: Books.

Post by Searcher » Tue Mar 03, 2015 6:49 am

So ... I was recently in the hospital for a week and spent a week and half home recovering ... it was a joy let me tell you. I was bored and thought, hey I can get all the books for the game of thrones for only like 20 or so dollars for my Kindle that should keep me busy and since it was such a great TV show, the books have to be outstanding, right? Right?

The first two were really good, nice pacing and great character building ( I'm guilty I am a Arya Stark Fan , love that girl) but the next two :-Q I am all for some background and a few new point of views from new characters but man can that guy ramble on. I'm actually skipping chapters in book four because nothing makes a lot of sense from a narrative point of view, to me at least. I am a huge Harry Turtledove fan and his two best series (IMHO) was his North V South collection and his Aliens v World set in WW2, so I'm use to long multi-character driven series. It's probably just me, still glad I bought them, just nick picking I guess.
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