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RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I only read about 100 or 200 pages of it, I think. Up to where what's her name got revivified all Frodo-like.

Then I tried watching the BBC series and again quit it not shortly after what's her name got herself undeadified and fitted for custom gloves. Everyone was too beige and gray. Even the crazy street magician (who I did not remember from the book), was more annoying than intriguing.

But I guess that's why they publish more than one book, so there are different books for different people.


I haven't been able to get my hands on the BBC series yet, so I can't speak to that.


Kirth Gersen wrote:

Taste is a weird thing, though. I made Mrs Gersen sit through Airplane! and Caddyshack, which I am firmly convinced are two of the funniest movies ever made. She sat through them, wooden-faced, and said "Those are just dumb. And not funny at all."

I asked her to show me something that was funny, and she made me watch Ace Ventura. And I found it not only profoundly unfunny, but also intensely annoying, and it was all I could do to finish the movie without tracking down Jim Carey and assassinating him during a bathroom break.

So, yeah. Weird.

Yeah, I watched Ace Ventura too, back in the day. (I might have been working in a theater.) God, that was drek. I never got Jim Carey.

Airplane! was brilliant. Caddyshack was funny, but didn't hit me the same way.

As the Scotsman said, "It's good thing we all have different tastes or there wouldn't be enough haggis to go round."

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

The BBC America version is not as funny as Pet Detective.


Kirth Gersen wrote:

If you like Jack Vance's 2-page footnotes, JS&MN is a MUST-read.

After Vance's stuff, it's one of my F/SF favorite novels ever.

The footnotes were the thing that kept me with the book for 100 or so pages. It's likely a sickness. Endnotes are wonderful because I can get through a paragraph without automatically checking them.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Oh yeah, I finished Kill City Blues by Richard Kadrey and started Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld.

The Exchange

SmiloDan wrote:

I tried reading it, but it was too slow and boring.

I tried watching it, but it was too slow and boring and the characters were really annoying.

"Slow" doesn't even begin to describe it, honestly, but then neither does "brilliant". The footnotes are great, every single one of them, and the Fey themselves had some of the creepiest imagery and dialogue I've ever read. It's not a light read, for sure, but I do think it's a genre classic.

didn't it win all sorts of awards, too?

In other news, it seems that I have developed a kin intuition about The Wheel of Time - I know exactly how long certain scenes and descriptions are going to be, which is extremely useful when I don't want to read them. Two Aeas Sedai approach the POV of the episode? skip a paragraph, you don't care who the Aes Sedai are and what they look like anyway. That annoying main character that everyone seem to like for some reason approached a woman? skip a page, they are cat fighting. The queen enters a dressing room with a couple of maids? skip two and a half pages, they are comparing dresses and blushing.

Really, my uncanny ability to just skip ahead the exact number of lines to reach the next part where something actually happens is growing uncanny.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

It's not really a "book" in the sense here... but I really liked what Hellboy was doing with the fey.

The Corpse wrote:
"Soon I think the king will gather us, and march us down into the shadows under the world where the old people go. Too late the sons of Adam will cry: ‘Where are the children of the earth?’ Gone. Look for, but you shall not find them. Weep… for they are gone forever."

Unfortunately, someone borrowed my collections and then moved away... so it's been a while. :(


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Speaking of differences in taste:

I hate endnotes. Footnotes 4 eva!!!

I especially like it when the footnote is at the end of the page and the note spills over on to the next page.

Love that shiznit.

Dark Archive

Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg


Doodlebug Anklebiter wrote:

Speaking of differences in taste:

I hate endnotes. Footnotes 4 eva!!!

Blasphemer!

Today in first world problems: Checked on What Hath God Wrought back on Wednesday because I was in the area of the bookstore, it had been exactly a week since ordering, and I thought of it. Figured I might save them a phone call since I know they sometimes get backed up. Learned the order was still in processing somewhere. This is the second book in a row and the third overall the same person working there has ordered me that's had something weird go on. I'm starting to feel a little bad about it since it's not her fault the distributor is being weird but she feels like she has the apologize anyway.

Oh well, due to RL stuff I haven't made much progress with Consider Phlebas so I've got that still to pour down my eyeholes.

Back a ways, I said that I ordered a used copy of Richard E. Ellis's The Union At Risk. There are only two modern works on the Nullification Crisis, so might as well read both of them. After saying that I got my email from Amazon and the price was higher than anticipated. Apparently they pulled some fast one where a featured seller got to slip into the top of the search results with shipping costs omitted. It was only $15, but it annoyed me so I cancelled the order. Then I wrote about Nullification a bit for the blog last Sunday and needed to check the title of the book. Off I went and Amazon now had several much more reasonable copies in good condition. Ordered one of those for five, including shipping. Got notice it shipped on Monday. Thought I'd have it by today. Checked the tracking yesterday and found out that only Wednesday did the post office get the email that it would receive the book at some date in the future.

Well, guess I'll have it Monday or Tuesday but it looks like someone didn't quite report honestly when they told me the thing shipped Monday. Checked the mail today and it was waiting for me. Possibly it time traveled?

So now I have it sitting there making eyes at me in all its TARDIS-blue glory...but I also have like two hundred pages of Consider Phlebas.

Sovereign Court

Lord Snow wrote:
SmiloDan wrote:

I tried reading it, but it was too slow and boring.

I tried watching it, but it was too slow and boring and the characters were really annoying.

"Slow" doesn't even begin to describe it, honestly, but then neither does "brilliant". The footnotes are great, every single one of them, and the Fey themselves had some of the creepiest imagery and dialogue I've ever read. It's not a light read, for sure, but I do think it's a genre classic.

didn't it win all sorts of awards, too?

In other news, it seems that I have developed a kin intuition about The Wheel of Time - I know exactly how long certain scenes and descriptions are going to be, which is extremely useful when I don't want to read them. Two Aeas Sedai approach the POV of the episode? skip a paragraph, you don't care who the Aes Sedai are and what they look like anyway. That annoying main character that everyone seem to like for some reason approached a woman? skip a page, they are cat fighting. The queen enters a dressing room with a couple of maids? skip two and a half pages, they are comparing dresses and blushing.

Really, my uncanny ability to just skip ahead the exact number of lines to reach the next part where something actually happens is growing uncanny.

It seems to have won awards for being the 'right kind' of fantasy: ponderous, cod-Victorian and self-important. Like much literary fiction, it wears its themes on its sleeve.

The Exchange

GeraintElberion wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
SmiloDan wrote:

I tried reading it, but it was too slow and boring.

I tried watching it, but it was too slow and boring and the characters were really annoying.

"Slow" doesn't even begin to describe it, honestly, but then neither does "brilliant". The footnotes are great, every single one of them, and the Fey themselves had some of the creepiest imagery and dialogue I've ever read. It's not a light read, for sure, but I do think it's a genre classic.

didn't it win all sorts of awards, too?

In other news, it seems that I have developed a kin intuition about The Wheel of Time - I know exactly how long certain scenes and descriptions are going to be, which is extremely useful when I don't want to read them. Two Aeas Sedai approach the POV of the episode? skip a paragraph, you don't care who the Aes Sedai are and what they look like anyway. That annoying main character that everyone seem to like for some reason approached a woman? skip a page, they are cat fighting. The queen enters a dressing room with a couple of maids? skip two and a half pages, they are comparing dresses and blushing.

Really, my uncanny ability to just skip ahead the exact number of lines to reach the next part where something actually happens is growing uncanny.

It seems to have won awards for being the 'right kind' of fantasy: ponderous, cod-Victorian and self-important. Like much literary fiction, it wears its themes on its sleeve.

Maybe. But then, I know personally about my self that I have nothing but contempt for literary fiction, and am not impressed by it. The SFF works that are considered literary I usually don't like. "1984" was one of the worst books I had the misfortune to read, and it's cousin "Brave New World" was one of the dumbest. For the most part, I'm looking for a good story with some fantastical elements to make it interesting - and JS&MN delivers very strongly on that front. It is a deep and intricate fantasy story with great worldbuilding and an awesome representation for an under used creature type (Fey). Plus, delicious footnotes.


So on the reading front I just finished the creepy crawly themed horror anthology. My opinion hasn't really changed. There might be a very small handful of okay stories in there, but a lot of just really really bad ones. Like "High school writing class" level bad. Now I need to figure out the next Kindle Laundry/plane reading material

RE: Buffy and fiction, I don't actually think the Dresden files is very similar to Buffy; maybe closer to Angel. A good chunk of the theme of the show is about growing up and surviving high school (literally), as well as the burdens of being a "chosen one". Neither of those themes really fit into the Dresden files, which is more noir detective + exploring the influence of power on a person.

Also while I won't tell someone they need to watch 2 seasons of a show before they like it, I will say that often genre shows, at least until recently, had horrible first seasons. Just focusing on shows of my generation, Buffy, Angel, Babylon 5, Agents of Shield, Arrow, and Star Trek: The Next Generation had weak to horrible early seasons.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I lucked out with Buffy. I discovered it Season 2, when they were also repeating Season 1 on Mondays (or Wednesdays). Season 2 is still one of my favorites.

While the Dresden Files are thematically similar to Angel, the quips remind me more of Buffy. I just wonder how Dresden knows so many movie quotes--are there that many drive in theaters in the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area?

I almost said Dresden's Scooby Gang was also more like Buffy's, but they're really more like Angel's ensemble: Pretty lady cop included.


SmiloDan wrote:


While the Dresden Files are thematically similar to Angel, the quips remind me more of Buffy. I just wonder how Dresden knows so many movie quotes--are there that many drive in theaters in the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area?

In one of the books he explains that there's a drive-in somewhere in southern Illinois he made fairly regular trips to. Also it seems that the issues with technology don't afflict you until you've learned a fair bit of magic, so he would have had a relatively normal childhood. Harry's pop culture references are mostly 70s and 80s genre stuff, which would line up fairly well with this if he were in, say, his mid-20s when the books began and started losing touch circa the mid to late 80s. (I remember some 90s references, but they tend to be less specific and come up less often than the earlier stuff.) I figure Harry as born circa '75, with some backwards drift because Butcher clearly draws on his own geek childhood and he was born in '71.

Of course the real reason is that Butcher uses the technology issue as an excuse to preserve some genre conventions that are otherwise badly out of date or grating. It's certainly no accident that Harry can use most technology without trouble, so long as it's tech that would have been available for a hard-boiled gumshoe. But then he uses the pop culture references to make Harry seem a bit more modern and even it out. Plus they're funny.

The Exchange

My latest read: Brother Cadfael's Penance, by Ellis Peters. It was great, even though I figured out who the killer would be before the dead body showed up. The parts I liked were the derring-do of the besieged castle. Peters has the Medieval actions and language down pat! Now I need to read the rest of the series.

Dark Archive

1984 and Animal Farm, by George Orwell.

Sovereign Court

Lord Snow wrote:
GeraintElberion wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
SmiloDan wrote:

I tried reading it, but it was too slow and boring.

I tried watching it, but it was too slow and boring and the characters were really annoying.

"Slow" doesn't even begin to describe it, honestly, but then neither does "brilliant". The footnotes are great, every single one of them, and the Fey themselves had some of the creepiest imagery and dialogue I've ever read. It's not a light read, for sure, but I do think it's a genre classic.

didn't it win all sorts of awards, too?

In other news, it seems that I have developed a kin intuition about The Wheel of Time - I know exactly how long certain scenes and descriptions are going to be, which is extremely useful when I don't want to read them. Two Aeas Sedai approach the POV of the episode? skip a paragraph, you don't care who the Aes Sedai are and what they look like anyway. That annoying main character that everyone seem to like for some reason approached a woman? skip a page, they are cat fighting. The queen enters a dressing room with a couple of maids? skip two and a half pages, they are comparing dresses and blushing.

Really, my uncanny ability to just skip ahead the exact number of lines to reach the next part where something actually happens is growing uncanny.

It seems to have won awards for being the 'right kind' of fantasy: ponderous, cod-Victorian and self-important. Like much literary fiction, it wears its themes on its sleeve.
Maybe. But then, I know personally about my self that I have nothing but contempt for literary fiction, and am not impressed by it. The SFF works that are considered literary I usually don't like. "1984" was one of the worst books I had the misfortune to read, and it's cousin "Brave New World" was one of the dumbest. For the most part, I'm looking for a good story with some fantastical elements to make it interesting - and JS&MN delivers very strongly on that front. It is a deep and intricate fantasy...

I don't dislike any particular genre. The Lowland is literary fiction, and also one of my favourite reads of the summer.

I lost patience with JS&MN, partly because it seemed to take it self very, very seriously. Not so much the story but the style. It's just not my cup of tea.

Just because it's not for me, doesn't mean it isn't a good book.

I just don't really rate book awards. I think there is a lot of ego, metropolitan-elite-ego, that goes into the judging of most book awards. Much more so than music or film awards.

The Exchange

Quote:
I just don't really rate book awards. I think there is a lot of ego, metropolitan-elite-ego, that goes into the judging of most book awards. Much more so than music or film awards.

Wait, seriously?


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Just finished reading The Broken Eye, by Brent Weeks. I'd recommend the series, starting with the Black Prism and continuing with The Blinding Knife. If you've read his Night Angel Trilogy and enjoyed it you'll probably like this. IMO it's MILES better, so even if you were lukewarm on that or have never heard of him, check it out. Books 2 and 3 are better than 1, but book 1 is solid.

Read the first 30 pages of Aeronaut's Windlass a few minutes ago and it's pretty good so far.


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I'm currently working my way through Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG; I'm finding it a fun read so far. It seems they dialed back the complexity for most things to Blue Basic or BECMI levels, leaving in some of the fun stuff like crit tables. It looks like if you don't mind the expected high fatality rate, it could be a lot of fun.


After many interruptions, finally finished Consider Phlebas. It's not bad, but it felt like quite a step down from The Player of Games even though it opened with a guy about to drown in sewage. I think part of the problem is that right from the start I just found the protagonist loathsome. I wanted him to lose badly, which he did, but most of the book is an extended fail parade for him and it got to the point where I was just tired of the dude. I might have liked it a bit more if he completed some kind of personal arc like he teased in the last few chapters. That he didn't left him very flat, and the romance set up to give him more depth really didn't.

Now it's on to more Nullification with Ricard E. Ellis's The Union At Risk. Already read the usual front matter and first chapter, where Ellis revealed himself as recipient of some kind of AEI grant (That'll be...interesting.) and a Jackson fanboy. He's also setting up some kind of states rights vs. states rights dichotomy that might be interesting, but I have the sense it's not going to convince me that once upon a time there was a non-cynical, non-partisan states rights tradition.

Shadow Lodge

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Kirth Gersen wrote:
Taste is a weird thing, though. I made Mrs Gersen sit through Airplane! and Caddyshack, which I am firmly convinced are two of the funniest movies ever made. She sat through them, wooden-faced, and said "Those are just dumb. And not funny at all."

Sounds like me when my mom tried to get me to watch Big Bang Theory with her. I laughed at one thing in the entire episode and wrote the rest off as stupid or just boring. She hasn't asked me to watch an episode since, despite raving repeatedly (before I caved and agreed to sit in on one with her) that it was "so you" and "right up your alley".

Shadow Lodge

Rynjin wrote:
Just finished reading The Broken Eye, by Brent Weeks. I'd recommend the series, starting with the Black Prism and continuing with The Blinding Knife. If you've read his Night Angel Trilogy and enjoyed it you'll probably like this. IMO it's MILES better, so even if you were lukewarm on that or have never heard of him, check it out. Books 2 and 3 are better than 1, but book 1 is solid.

Putting 'em on the list.


Went and did the second chapter of Ellis just now. Except for his admiration of Jackson, it's a dry read. Most issues are dealt with in a summary fashion, with examples usually being much the same. He reserves lengthy quotes, mostly from Jackson so far, for disquisitions on constitutional theory. One of his positions is that Jackson was a consistent, formidable constitutional thinker. I can buy that he wasn't a halfwit, but I'm already catching more than a few whiffs of "I'm Andy Jackson's #1 fan! I have his dry cleaning receipt for a sweatervest!".

There's not a lot of inquiry yet into where constitutional thought came from or why people found various schools of it appealing. Given Ellis laid out a not particularly generous interpretation of attempts at such inquiries in his prologue I don't expect to see much in the rest of the book. His frame seems to be rather "Jackson's states rights good; Calhoun's states rights bad." Nobody except the pledges at Kappa Kappa Kappa would disagree with the second half, but so far his rendition of the idea as espoused by Jackson seems fairly ungrounded and tautological.

It's not a bad book, and it's admirably short, but it doesn't look like I'll end up recommending it for kicks.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

4 Sweatervests!!!!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I finished The Aeronauts Windlass last week, the first novel in the Cinderspire universe by Jim Butcher. Really a solid book, my first steampunk novel to boot. Really something different for me.

The novel itself is a more of a mystery/action book, with much set-up (since it tries to launch a new universe and has to explain a lot of concepts). The characters are rock-solid, a lot of the concepts were quite novel to me and it only has one case of way too obvious exposition dumping I noticed. It gets my recommendation for any fan of Jim Butcher, fantasy and steampunk.

Shadow Lodge

Orthos wrote:

Making my way through Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series. Currently on Drowned Wednesday.

Once I finish the series, moving on to Jim Butcher's The Aeronaut's Windlass.

About 50% done with Lord Sunday as of last night, meaning I should finish it before the week's out, given my 30-minutes-before-bed reading schedule.

After that I'll move on to Aeronaut's Windlass, then probably will poke through the various samples I've downloaded on my Kindle for the past couple of months and see which ones I want to buy.


After lots of personal busy-ness, finally finished Hook. Didn't finish Yeats but decided to re-start Gaskell's Atlan anyway.


Glutted on Barsoom and Tarzan, I'm now reading some of Edgar Rice Burroughs' less-well-known stuff. The Efficiency Expert reminded me of some of Earl Derr Biggers' stuff. The Monster Men wastes no time in getting started, but, good God, the supposed pidgin Chinese spoken by the cook is really, really hard to get through without shaking someone by the neck.

Dark Archive

Finally read the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin "GAME OF THRONES YEA!!!


Three chapters into Ellis and it's gotten a little better. There's still no inquiry into where constitutionalisms come from, and I still don't expect any, but he's dragged himself away from pure theory arguments and gotten more into people doing things. However, for all his aspiration to doing a high-level examination this still seems very much like a book about Andrew Jackson.

With Freehling so recently read it's nice to spot some familiar South Carolina characters popping up. A fair bit of the last chapter went into laying down some markers that Ellis didn't do a lot to cash in yet, but I imagine that's coming. They're about the appeal of a harder states rights, though still well short of nullification, line developing elsewhere in the South. He's careful to emphasize that these guys didn't really swing the region, but seems to be angling for them as significant precursors and laying groundwork that he'll come back to in state-focused chapters for Georgia and Virginia. Also maybe New York, since he's talked about some Crawfordites up there (including some gun with funny facial hair named Martin Van Buren) but I don't know enough about internal NY politics at the time to know quite where that one is going.

The Exchange

I was gonna read more Cadfael, but I got distracted by the shiny-new on the New Books shelf at the library and got The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, by Julie Berry, instead.
Fun so far, but it has bogged down a bit in the middle. It's not really a fair-play mystery, which disappoints me, but I'm enjoying all the farcical elements and the interaction between the boarding-school girls [Not that kind of action, get you mind out of the gutter, it's a YA novel!]


Zeugma wrote:

I was gonna read more Cadfael, but I got distracted by the shiny-new on the New Books shelf at the library and got The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, by Julie Berry, instead.

Fun so far, but it has bogged down a bit in the middle. It's not really a fair-play mystery, which disappoints me, but I'm enjoying all the farcical elements and the interaction between the boarding-school girls [Not that kind of action, get you mind out of the gutter, it's a YA novel!]

Implying YA novels never delve into "that kind of action". =p

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Actually, the YA novel I read just had "that kind of action" in it but that's to be expected if a girl dresses and swaggers like a dashing air sailor. :-P

And it was just a kiss. It's YA for Chthulu's sake!!!

It was Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld that I finished.

Now I've started The Getaway God by Richard Kadrey. The badass nephilim gladiator in Hell/LA PI promised his bisexual girlfriend eight maids-a-milking for Christmas....

Shadow Lodge

SmiloDan wrote:
It was Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld that I finished.

I love the Leviathan series. SUCH a great concept and well-executed world.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
magnuskn wrote:

I finished The Aeronauts Windlass last week, the first novel in the Cinderspire universe by Jim Butcher. Really a solid book, my first steampunk novel to boot. Really something different for me.

The novel itself is a more of a mystery/action book, with much set-up (since it tries to launch a new universe and has to explain a lot of concepts). The characters are rock-solid, a lot of the concepts were quite novel to me and it only has one case of way too obvious exposition dumping I noticed. It gets my recommendation for any fan of Jim Butcher, fantasy and steampunk.

I have seen this but have not picked it up yet. If you enjoyed your first foray into the steampunk genre, I heartily recommend the Court of Air series by Stephen Hunt.

Meanwhile, I am reading Sharpe's Tiger (by Bernard Cornwell) and will likely make my way through a fair number of these excellent books before being distracted by something with a dragon on the cover. :D

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Orthos wrote:
SmiloDan wrote:
It was Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld that I finished.
I love the Leviathan series. SUCH a great concept and well-executed world.

Yeah, it's really fun! I just ILLed Goliath, so hopefully I get it soon!

I really like how they balance YA sensibilities with the fact that people get hurt and die in wars. It's relatively upbeat, but not unrealistically so.

The Exchange

Rynjin wrote:
Zeugma wrote:

I was gonna read more Cadfael, but I got distracted by the shiny-new on the New Books shelf at the library and got The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, by Julie Berry, instead.

Fun so far, but it has bogged down a bit in the middle. It's not really a fair-play mystery, which disappoints me, but I'm enjoying all the farcical elements and the interaction between the boarding-school girls [Not that kind of action, get you mind out of the gutter, it's a YA novel!]
Implying YA novels never delve into "that kind of action". =p

Some do, of course. But not this particular novel, which seems aimed at the younger end of YA (preteen-teen).


Finished 'The Thirteenth Tribe' by Arthur Koestler (interesting, and possibly inspiration for 'Gentlemen of the Road' by Michael Chabon; not sure how accurate it is historically) and now reading 'The Romance of the Forest' by Ann Radcliffe.

Shadow Lodge

Orthos wrote:
Orthos wrote:

Making my way through Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series. Currently on Drowned Wednesday.

Once I finish the series, moving on to Jim Butcher's The Aeronaut's Windlass.

About 50% done with Lord Sunday as of last night, meaning I should finish it before the week's out, given my 30-minutes-before-bed reading schedule.

After that I'll move on to Aeronaut's Windlass, then probably will poke through the various samples I've downloaded on my Kindle for the past couple of months and see which ones I want to buy.

And done with Keys to the Kingdom and started Cinder Spires.

Airships and energy gauntlets! This is my kind of story. =D


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Orthos wrote:
Airships and energy gauntlets! This is my kind of story. =D

Not to mention magician who can't deal with doorknobs and talking cats. It's a great book!

Shadow Lodge

I haven't gotten that far in yet =) Just read the prologue and the bits about Grimm's escapades in airship-to-airship gun-battles.


I need to finish Keys to the Kingdom. Read through Lady Friday when I was in high school, and I vaguely recall reading Whatever Saturday after that, but Lord Sunday hadn't been released yet and I never went back to it. I own three of the books, I should round out the collection.


Finished Ellis' The Union At Risk: Jacksonian Democracy, States' Rights, and the Nullification Crisis and I have opinions.

So far as I can tell, Ellis and Freehling's Prelude to the Civil War are the only modern, book-length treatments of the event itself rather than surveys of sectional crises, the "Jacksonian" era, chapters in biographies of the principals, or whatever. If you want to really go for the deep dive and understand the situation, you must read both. However, you need to read Freehling a whole lot more.

Ellis is an intensely curious, probing historian when it comes to constitutional theory. He is, however, almost perfectly uninterested in where it comes from or why people find it appealing. Except for occasional references to economic troubles, there's almost no talk about causation or contextualizing. It takes him until his last chapter to address slavery. He agrees that it's central to the shift in states rights thought on the part of South Carolina, but the section is so short and deliberately after everything else in the book that it feels perfunctory. Given the book's whole theme is about that shift, and Ellis frames the crisis as one of states rights traditionalists (majoritarian-minded, not particularly sectional*) and nullifier radicals (anti-majoritiarian and consciously sectional) that he does very little to discuss either what the traditionalists believed (aside Andrew Jackson) or why the nullifiers didn't believe in those things anymore.

What does slavery get? He has Calhoun's letter to Virgil Maxcy where JC admits in as many words that nullification was about the defense of slavery. He appears to accept Freehling's verdict on that, going so far as citing acceptance of nullification as correlated strongly with high levels of enslavement. But he shies away from considering the connection in any depth. There are observations here and there about how highly-enslaved states more significantly and, usually, more successfully resisted the majoritiarian impulses of the time but I don't think he ever comes out and says "slaverydunnit" in his own words. By contrast, he spills at least a small lake of ink on the Bank and Indian Removal. There he helpfully notes affinities and differences between those fights and nullification.

There are plenty of useful bits in here, but overall I think the book is poorly-titled. Ellis didn't really write a history of the nullification crisis. He wrote an inquiry into the constitutional thought going on in and around it. The Crisis itself is largely a background event. He's also very shy with information about what his traditionalists believed, except for tautologies about states having this power and the nation this other power, which makes it still harder to contextualize the shift. And his claim that Andrew Jackson was a formidable constitutional thinker? Contradicted in his own text. His Jackson spends more time tap-dancing around the serious issues and then "winning" victory that put him deeply at odds with his own party and empowered his foes in return for... I really don't know.

I feel like there's a subtext here that Ellis is trying to rescue states rights thinking from the specter of nullification, but he himself admits that the pre-nullification tradition was ambiguous and conflicted. Because, you know, states' rights isn't a goal. It's a strategy you use to achieve goals when you're not so great at winning national elections. That was as true when Jefferson and Madison wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions (even if the Federalists had gone off the deep end to provoke them) as it would be in 1860-1. There are discontinuities and they are significant, but they're more in degree, procedure, and acceptability of secession as a lawful and peaceable action than huge quantum leaps.

Since I'm here: States' rights as expressed by thinkers prior to SC going off the deep end to preserve slavery was a tradition notably vague on what ought to be done, but the preferred remedies were more on the lines of protest, contest the next election, and seeking constitutional amendments. The nullifiers skipped right past protest and the notion that they should look for salvation at the polls, ultimately on ideological grounds. Then they held out secession at least semi-seriously (probably only in the abstract for Calhoun, but much more intensely for the radicals in SC) as the final remedy for a state that could not get satisfaction.

Was going to go straight into Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought but I finished Ellis on a road trip. Down at the big box, I picked up Celia, A Slave. It's one of those books people hold up as an example of all the ways a microhistory can be great. It's very short and involves an enslaved woman beating her rape-happy owner to death and, I think, burned the body. So that's next. Then Howe.

I also came away with West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776 by Claudio Saunt based on it sounding interesting when the author was on Ben Franklin's World. I mention it mostly because it's a revolutionary-era book that isn't focused on the East Coast, which you don't see a lot of. Fair warning if you listen to the podcast: the host is a little loud. I get the impression that she uses her lecture hall voice when recording. Content's usually good, though. Mostly guests are authors with newish books out, but now and then she has someone who works at a historical site.

*I have my doubts on the second count. Ellis finds a few northern states rights men, but he doesn't find many of them outside a of Martin Van Buren's faction in New York. He has piles of southerners subscribing to similar ideas.

Sovereign Court

Just started on H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald.

A graceful writer, is the first impression.

Shadow Lodge

magnuskn wrote:
Orthos wrote:
Airships and energy gauntlets! This is my kind of story. =D
Not to mention magician who can't deal with doorknobs and talking cats. It's a great book!

"Do you have anything else to add?"

"... Doorknobs are a most finicky technology."

*sneeeeerrrrk*

Yeah I'm really loving this story, and especially the cast of main characters thus far. Really excited to see where Butcher takes this long-term.

The Exchange

Finished reading Knife Of Dreams - the last book in The Wheel of Time written by Robart Jordan (though I am somewhat confused as it seems that both Jordan and Sanderson are credited for the next book - is that because much of it is based on notes Jordan left behind?).

Continuing my plan to speed up my advancement in the two endless urban fantasy series I'm reading, I'll be picking up Repairman Jack #7 (Gateways). I have lately began to eye up the Vorkosigan Saga, and that one seems to be practically endless as well, so I really want to pick my pace up with Dresden and Jack.

Knife of Dreams thoughts:
After a small mental crisis involving a certain unstable stool from the previous book, I was all set and ready to suffer through this one and finally make it to the promised payoff - the final trilogy written by Brandon Sanderson who is one of my favorite authors ever.

To my surprise, Knife Of Dreams was much better than many of the previous installments in the series. While still much to afflicted with the quircks and flaws of the author to actually be good, it was strictly within the realm of tolerable.

Look, for junkies like me who made it this far into the story, clearly we are biased to try and like epic fantasy. Even as I ploghed through thousands of pages of drek in the Wheel of Time, the vast intricate world was still providing some sense of enjoyment in the immersion. As such, when the story contains actual plot development, when the density of action scenes picks up drastically (and those are written much better than their ilk in earlier books) on the expense of countless scenes of endless white noise - well, now I'm no board again. Also, the book has very meager amount of Nynaeve in it, thank the Light.

I also have a couple of questions for those who read the entire series-
1) Why is this book named Knife of Dreams? I mean the names of previous books were never super meaningful, but this book just really didn't have any knives or dreams in it.
2) This is the actually important question - what should I expect from Sanderson's concluding trilogy? does it feel different from books 5-11 of WoT? Will I still be reading about dozens of indistinguishable Aes Sedai smoothing skirts and readjusting shoals? do the books have more concise and self contained arcs, or are characters still going to be spending thousands of pages doing very little? In short, are Sanderson's books really better than Jordan's? I want to be mentally prepared if they are not...

Shadow Lodge

Lord Snow wrote:
I have lately began to eye up the Vorkosigan Saga, and that one seems to be practically endless as well

Mostly because you're looking at a mostly-complete collection already, rather than a series that is still in the process of coming out. There are nineteen novels and novellas out now (plus a handful of short stories), though many are easier acquired as part of omnibus collections of two or three full stories (usually one main story and a novella or two attached), with the most recent, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, coming out back in 2012. There is tentatively scheduled a new book for 2016, a four-year gap, bringing the total to twenty.

Bujold's writing/publishing speed has significantly slowed in recent years, compared to say Butcher who is still putting out one Dresden book every year or year-and-a-half (in addition now to Cinder Spires). As a result, it's probably a lot easier to "catch up" on the series, especially if you're getting the books via Kindle or Nook or some other digital format where you don't have to chase down the physical copies, without having it suddenly grow on you when you thought you were nearly done.

Which also fits story-wise - in the last four or five books of the series, a LOT of the plots center around the characters wrapping up a lot of loose threads and hanging personal arcs and plots, and just generally kind of settling down. Miles himself has some potential for shenanigans still with his current position and occupation, but even he's slowed his manic engines quite a bit since the first few books.

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