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De Sista Vittnena (The Last Witnesses) by Svetlana Aleksejevitj (the most recent Nobel Prize literary winner) about Soviet children during World War 2. Pretty easy to read, but absolutely flipping nightmarish from time to time.


Started The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia 1772-1832 by Alan Taylor. Taylor is widely regarded as some sort of inhuman monster for his ability to churn out large, good, and even readable books at such a prodigious pace. It's ok so far, but he leans on biography so hard, and with so little in the way of bridging, that the big picture tends to fade.

Liberty's Edge

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Limeylongears wrote:

Finished 'Galactic Patrol' by EE 'Doc' Smith, which I didn't like, and 'A Sampler of British Folktales', compiled by Katherine Briggs, which I did.

Now reading 'Assassin's Apprentice' by Robin Hobb and 'The Pike: Gabriele D'Annunzio: Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War' by Lucy Hughes-Hallett.

A shame, they very much are artifacts of their time, but Smith's books still have a big warm spot in my heart.


Krensky wrote:
Limeylongears wrote:

Finished 'Galactic Patrol' by EE 'Doc' Smith, which I didn't like, and 'A Sampler of British Folktales', compiled by Katherine Briggs, which I did.

Now reading 'Assassin's Apprentice' by Robin Hobb and 'The Pike: Gabriele D'Annunzio: Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War' by Lucy Hughes-Hallett.

A shame, they very much are artifacts of their time, but Smith's books still have a big warm spot in my heart.

Agreed. Though it may partly be nostalgia. I read them in my youth, though that was long after their writing.


Currently reading The Path Between the Seas, a "biography" of the Panama Canal, by David McCullough. A lot more went into that thing than digging a big trench...

Liberty's Edge

thejeff wrote:
Krensky wrote:
Limeylongears wrote:

Finished 'Galactic Patrol' by EE 'Doc' Smith, which I didn't like, and 'A Sampler of British Folktales', compiled by Katherine Briggs, which I did.

Now reading 'Assassin's Apprentice' by Robin Hobb and 'The Pike: Gabriele D'Annunzio: Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War' by Lucy Hughes-Hallett.

A shame, they very much are artifacts of their time, but Smith's books still have a big warm spot in my heart.
Agreed. Though it may partly be nostalgia. I read them in my youth, though that was long after their writing.

I find they still hold up well as Space Opera as long as you remember when they were written and can get into or see past Smith's prose. Personally I found it charming.


"The Mark of the Beast and other fantastical tales" by Kipling.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Just finished The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury.

Just started Zero World by Jason M. Hough.


Just finished Butcher`s The Aeronaut`s Windlass . Overall, I liked it, though not being a big fan of cats, a lot of the cutesy stuff left me cold.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Yeah, I read The Aeronaut's Windlass right after my roommate's cat ran away. And that cat had a big Single White Feline thing going on with me, so it was a weird experience.


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
Kajehase wrote:
De Sista Vittnena (The Last Witnesses) by Svetlana Aleksejevitj (the most recent Nobel Prize literary winner) about Soviet children during World War 2. Pretty easy to read, but absolutely flipping nightmarish from time to time.

So turns out I needed a break from Belarusian children having a nightmarish time of it, so I stopped in the middle and re-read Elizabeth Bear's Jenny Casey trilogy.

Three things I noticed/realised:
1. The titular heroine lives on Sigourney Street. Nice!
2. Said heroine would be 3 or 4 years old right now if she were real.
3. Giving a child-character a younger sibling with a possibly fatal disease is a sure-fire way of making this former 10-year-old with a leukemia-fighting kid-brother identify strongly with that character.

Bonus-thing:
4. When you know what's coming, every scene in the first two books with the Castaign sisters is flippin' devastating.


Finished 'The Pike', which was very good. Now on with 'The Dark Angel - Aspects of Victorian Sexuality' by Fraser Harrison.

Also read 'Night's Master' by Tanith Lee today, which I liked as well - kind of Lord Dunsany-y/Clark Ashton Smith-y (if a bit pornier than the former and less morbid than the latter), which I wasn't expecting.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Limeylongears wrote:

Finished 'The Pike', which was very good. Now on with 'The Dark Angel - Aspects of Victorian Sexuality' by Fraser Harrison.

Also read 'Night's Master' by Tanith Lee today, which I liked as well - kind of Lord Dunsany-y/Clark Ashton Smith-y (if a bit pornier than the former and less morbid than the latter), which I wasn't expecting.

Dark Angel-era Jessica Alba????? ;-)


Finished Taylor over the weekend. It really picked up toward the end but I was still frustrated with how much it was really a history of slavery in the War of 1812. The preamble is decent, but I felt like the tailing edge going out to 1832 existed mostly in the subtitle. Great book, but not what I wanted it to be.

Presently auditioning Merril Peterson's The Great Triumvirate, which bills itself as kind of a triple political biography of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun. There is no good political biography of Clay, which is a bit amazing. I'm not sure if I care for it or not, but it came highly recommended for getting a feel for how the men and their party system operated. Would dovetail very well with my ongoing project to push my knowledge deeper backwards and get me out of this Early Republic rut I've been in.

And Door Number Two: Walter Johnson's Soul by Soul, which is a microhistory of the New Orleans slave market. Johnson gets huge points for writing s@*@ right in the introduction. No apologies or qualifiers. No hand-wringing about undinified language. He just says s!~# when he means s*@$. Hundreds of people would be crammed into these rooms, sometimes for days on end. They didn't leave behind feces or waste to cover the floor. They had s~~& up to their ankles. It was a damned dirty, ugly business that earned dirty words.

Which all goes to say that I'm clearly going to read Johnson and save Peterson for some other day. :)


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I was a child (9 years old, perhaps?) when I first tried to read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I didn't understand the language very well, and I didn't get very far.

Oh, I got exposure to the story in other forms, during the next few years. I read a "kiddie" version, and two comic book adaptations. I saw the 1950 Disney movie on TV. Yet after my first aborted attempt to read the original, I waited over 30 years to make my second attempt.

To my surprise, I loved the book. Shortly after reading the whole book once, I started reading it again, and now I'm over 2/3 through it.

Even as an adult, I don't claim to understand the novel perfectly. I often have to re-read a sentence or a paragraph to understand it better. My ignorance of ships and the sea makes for another obvious handicap. Yet despite my slow pace and limited comprehension, the book gives me a certain feeling of suspense and excitement that I don't remember feeling with those adaptations.

For instance, when...

Treasure Island:
...Jim and his mother hid from the pirates, those pirates came very close to finding them and killing them. It was frightening! I don't remember getting any similar sense of danger from the other versions.

Or for another example, take the part I'm re-reading now, in which Jim managed to cut the Hispaniola adrift, board it and - what's most surprising of all - beach it! It's like... OMG! If anything, my ignorance of nautical matters only makes me MORE impressed that Jim - I assume in his early teens, and at any rate, on the first sea voyage of his life - could have managed such a feat. He must have learned so much of that technical stuff about ships and the sea so quickly, on his way to the island. I mean... I know that Trelawney had said that a child could sail the Hispaniola, but I'm sure he hadn't meant it literally! I'd call Jim Hawkins no less impressive a character than any other hero in fiction.


Aaron Bitman wrote:

I was a child (9 years old, perhaps?) when I first tried to read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I didn't understand the language very well, and I didn't get very far.

Oh, I got exposure to the story in other forms, during the next few years. I read a "kiddie" version, and two comic book adaptations. I saw the 1950 Disney movie on TV. Yet after my first aborted attempt to read the original, I waited over 30 years to make my second attempt.

To my surprise, I loved the book. Shortly after reading the whole book once, I started reading it again, and now I'm over 2/3 through it.

Even as an adult, I don't claim to understand the novel perfectly. I often have to re-read a sentence or a paragraph to understand it better. My ignorance of ships and the sea makes for another obvious handicap. Yet despite my slow pace and limited comprehension, the book gives me a certain feeling of suspense and excitement that I don't remember feeling with those adaptations.

For instance, when...** spoiler omitted **

I reread it recently as well and it really does hold up. It's deservedly a classic, despite some non-stellar uses in movies and other adaptations.

Liberty's Edge

It's one of the best children's books of all time.

Scarab Sages

Whilst battling insomnia Friday night, I finally started to read Stephen King's Revival. I've heard it ends up as a bit of a Lovecraftian tale.


I'm not well-versed in Robert Louis Stevenson, but I haven't read anything bad by him.

The Exchange

I'm such a lit geek, I've read the annotated Treasure Island. It was awesome. The only thing I liked slightly less than most of Stevenson's works was The Black Arrow. My favorite Stevenson story is "Markheim," which is a little gem of a morality play, and really displays his deft hand at characterization.


Five Hundred Years of Utopia

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Going to pause Zero World by Jason M. Hough so I can read Visitor by C.J. Cherryh. Part bajillion of the Foreigner series!

Baja-naja.


Synergistic weirdiosity:

An online comrade just posted a RLS poem:

The Cow
by Robert Louis Stevenson

The friendly cow all red and white,
I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
To eat with apple-tart.

She wanders lowing here and there,
And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
The pleasant light of day;

And blown by all the winds that pass
And wet with all the showers,
She walks among the meadow grass
And eats the meadow flowers.


SmiloDan wrote:

Going to pause Zero World by Jason M. Hough so I can read Visitor by C.J. Cherryh. Part bajillion of the Foreigner series!

Baja-naja.

Baja-naja indeed, Dan-ji! Remind me, is bajillion felicitous, or unluckily divisible, like 8?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I think it's unfelicitous because it's even.

Also--I didn't read part 16, Tracker yet!!!!! How did I miss that?

Probably lost in the bajillions and bajillions.

And do I actually mean baji-naji?

I'm so bad at fake languages.

And we literally studied Klingon in linguistics in undergrad.

Like, in real life.


Baji-naji is the actual thing itself, but baja-naja might be what you say when you're commenting on the condition of life in general? Or something? Just don't drink the alkaloid tea.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Or try to standardize the spelling of the mecheita.


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Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
Five Hundred Years of Utopia

Still blows me away that a book called Utopia was written by a guy who seriously thought the best way to maintain a good society was to burn "heretics" at the stake.


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On my end, I blew through Rude Tales and Glorious, a bawdy retelling of the Arthurian cycle in which Merlin is a mountebank and pimp, and Percival's straight, strong lance of unusual size is not a weapon used to joust with other knights, if you get my meaning. And everyone is aware that everyone else is a charlatan and a cheat except the pretentious, stuck-up, blowhard nobles. It's not a huge surprise that the author, "Nicolas Seare," was another of Trevanian's pen names.


Now reading two of Joe Lansdale's "Hap and Leonard" novels. Imagine if Robert B Parker's Spenser and Hawk were poor folks from East Texas, and if Hawk were gay, and you have a pretty good idea of H&L. I'm hoping to eventually see the TV show they're making, because Michael Kenneth Williams (AKA Omar, AKA Chalky White) plays Leonard.

The Exchange

Finished reading "Nine Princes In Amber" (Amber #1, by Roger Zelanzy), a book which I have been reading concurrently with several others for a while now - basically, it was the "before bedtime" read, meaning I would get two pages in before my sight got bleary and I passed out. However my schedule was clear this morning, and I decided enough was enough and burned through the last few chapters in one sitting.

In other news, started reading "Calculus" (Spivak, 4th ed.), with the intent of getting a real grasp of the fundamentals of the subject - the more time passes, the less happy I am about the way the subject was taught to me in the university. This is a mammoth of a book, and densely populated with some very difficult problems to puzzle over, so I have to assume finishing it would take a while.

Nine Princes In Amber thoughts:
There appears to be this "old style" for writing fantasy books, which I simply can't warm up to. Three times I've encountered, the previous two being in The Dying Earth and Black Company. It feels like I'm reading a draft, and not the proper story as it should be told.

At this point I have to wonder what the appeal is, because I'm missing it by miles. How is it ever possible to be fully engaged in a story that is filled with sentences like "then a terrible storm came and we lost fifteen more ships" or "so we walked for three days until we reached the shore"? The question, phrased as simply as possible, would be - why skip over the good parts?

The concepts in the basis of Nine Princes are a rather solid foundation for a great epic fantasy - godlings capable of sliding between realities (effectively giving them the ability to shape the world around them as they see fit) struggle for dominion over the one real territory in the universe, scheming and waging wars and quite possibly ignoring more concrete threats in their obsessive grudges against one another. However, everything feels so barebones and glossed over that I could hardly find myself caring about events as they unfolded. "whatever", I found myself thinking multiple times, "by the time I read a further two pages the situation would be entirely different".

Which brings me to another point. I hear many describing "grimdark" - a sort of a cynical and bitter subgenre of fantasy - as a new thing, but Corewin and his family are major league a*&holes that would put to shame most characters in a Joe Abercrombie novel easily - and the futility of their struggle is staggering. In but a very brief war that lasted for about 20 pages, a quarter million brave soldiers died for the main character in an expedition he knew was doomed from the start, incredibly far from their homes. At no point are we given an indication that Eric, the arch nemesis for the PoV character, is really any worse then Corewin himself, or that it actually matters who sits on the throne of Amber to anyone except the feuding princes and princesses.

All in all, I was thoroughly detached from the book on an emotional level, and while I will read the sequels, it will be mostly for the thrill of finishing the great omnibus physical edition that's sitting on my bedroom desk, and not because I care deeply what happens next.

The Exchange

Kirth Gersen wrote:
Now reading two of Joe Lansdale's "Hap and Leonard" novels. Imagine if Robert B Parker's Spenser and Hawk were poor folks from East Texas, and if Hawk were gay, and you have a pretty good idea of H&L. I'm hoping to eventually see the TV show they're making, because Michael Kenneth Williams (AKA Omar, AKA Chalky White) plays Leonard.

Cautionary advice with these novels - read the first two, then stop. I enjoyed those first two adventures quite a bit, and the dropoff in quality for the third one is nothing short of alarming. The banter is still fun, and the writing every bit as crisp, but the story just goes to some extremely underwhelming places that feel like the author burned out most logical directions he could take those characters to.

Speaking of which, if anyone has any recommendations for good (non Hap and Leonard) Lansdale reads, I would greatly appreciate it!


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Lirael, the sequel to Sabriel, by Garth Nix. It's great, and has one of the most interesting magic systems ever.


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Lord Snow wrote:
it was the "before bedtime" read, meaning I would get two pages in before my sight got bleary and I passed out. .

This sounds depressingly familiar.

The Exchange

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
it was the "before bedtime" read, meaning I would get two pages in before my sight got bleary and I passed out. .
This sounds depressingly familiar.

Frankly, waking up to your morning alarm clock to find that you've been sleeping with the lights on and using your still open book as a pillow becomes *really* embarrassing after the fifth time or so.


Lord Snow wrote:

Finished reading "Nine Princes In Amber" (Amber #1, by Roger Zelanzy), a book which I have been reading concurrently with several others for a while now - basically, it was the "before bedtime" read, meaning I would get two pages in before my sight got bleary and I passed out. However my schedule was clear this morning, and I decided enough was enough and burned through the last few chapters in one sitting.

Amber, if spoilers are needed for books that's almost as old as I am:
I first read Amber a long time ago (mid eighties maybe?), so that likely colors my perceptions.

I don't recall ever being bothered by the "old style" issue you refer to. I always saw it as more skipping over the dull parts to get to the good parts than skipping the good parts. To contrast it could be seen as skipping the irrelevant padding so many tomes have today. Got to fit the plot and characterization in 200 pages after all. :)
Sure, you could describe the terrible storm in great detail, but what does it gain you. There are no important characters to interact with, no plot relevant or character defining decisions to be made - just another obstacle to make it through. So it's disposed of in a sentence.
There are plenty of good bits, at least in my mind. Action scenes played out in more detail. Other ordeals that matter more to the character. Tense confrontations, revelations and betrayals by family.

As for "grimdark", there are definite differences. Corwin's family is all a%+*@@~s, certainly, but the emphasis is different than in the modern grimdark stuff - less focus on the blood & fighting & nastiness of it all. An earlier version of a similar reaction to high fantasy, perhaps. I'm not actually sure what subgenre Amber falls into. There's definitely a 70s cynicism to it all. Mixed with high fantasy poetic prose.

I'll add without spoilering things that at least some of the futility of the first book comes from Corwin not having a clue what's going on. He's been out of touch & without memory for centuries. Even with his memory back he's kind of floundering.


Lord Snow wrote:
Cautionary advice with these novels - read the first two, then stop. I enjoyed those first two adventures quite a bit, and the dropoff in quality for the third one is nothing short of alarming.

Unfortunately, the library only had two of the later ones: Devil Red and Honky Tonk Samurai. The former started off really, really good... and had an ending so spectacularly stupid that I couldn't believe it was the same author. I'm still going to read Hony Tonk Samurai, though, if nothing else for the title.


I've only read the comics he's written, but Lansdale is always (like, always) like that; I'm not saying he's a bad writer, just that his stories are more mythopoeic than logical, if you see you see what I mean.

The Exchange

thejeff wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:

Finished reading "Nine Princes In Amber" (Amber #1, by Roger Zelanzy), a book which I have been reading concurrently with several others for a while now - basically, it was the "before bedtime" read, meaning I would get two pages in before my sight got bleary and I passed out. However my schedule was clear this morning, and I decided enough was enough and burned through the last few chapters in one sitting.

** spoiler omitted **...

Are these spoilers for just the first book (Nine Princes In Amber) or for all five? Or all ten, including the second series?

The Exchange

About Lansdale - if I remember correctly, the first two Hap & Leonard are pretty great start to finish, with logical plots and all. The third one was something very much like what you guys describe, though.


Lord Snow wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:

Finished reading "Nine Princes In Amber" (Amber #1, by Roger Zelanzy), a book which I have been reading concurrently with several others for a while now - basically, it was the "before bedtime" read, meaning I would get two pages in before my sight got bleary and I passed out. However my schedule was clear this morning, and I decided enough was enough and burned through the last few chapters in one sitting.

** spoiler omitted **...
Are these spoilers for just the first book (Nine Princes In Amber) or for all five? Or all ten, including the second series?

Not really spoilers at all. Mostly just commenting on your spoiled post.

The Exchange

thejeff wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:

Finished reading "Nine Princes In Amber" (Amber #1, by Roger Zelanzy), a book which I have been reading concurrently with several others for a while now - basically, it was the "before bedtime" read, meaning I would get two pages in before my sight got bleary and I passed out. However my schedule was clear this morning, and I decided enough was enough and burned through the last few chapters in one sitting.

** spoiler omitted **...
Are these spoilers for just the first book (Nine Princes In Amber) or for all five? Or all ten, including the second series?
Not really spoilers at all. Mostly just commenting on your spoiled post.

Ah, cool.

Nine Princes In Amber spoilers:
About the briefness - it's a balancing act, I think. There are multiple elements to this - one is pacing. I kept feeling thrown out of the book when a conversation would take two pages, and then a three day journey through wilderness while pursued by enemy soldiers is quite literally a sentence and a half. It's like watching a movie that would speed up X64 unexpectedly from time to time. Another consideration is immersion - I want to feel in the story, not as if I'm reading a fact sheet about what happened, and "I took the ship, killing the crew. I did this thing three more times, then had to change to another ship. Then I took two more" is just much too dry for my taste. Sometimes authors can throw you into a situation with a few well placed words, but this style really doesn't do that for me.

As for Corwin not knowing anything of what's happening around him - he actually appears to know more, or at least have a better perception that something is off, then the rest of the characters. Seemingly he's the only one bothering to wonder what happened to his father, who's unexpected disappearance is the catalyst of the plot, and probably has a lot to do with the events behind the scenes.


Lord Snow wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:

Finished reading "Nine Princes In Amber" (Amber #1, by Roger Zelanzy), a book which I have been reading concurrently with several others for a while now - basically, it was the "before bedtime" read, meaning I would get two pages in before my sight got bleary and I passed out. However my schedule was clear this morning, and I decided enough was enough and burned through the last few chapters in one sitting.

** spoiler omitted **...
Are these spoilers for just the first book (Nine Princes In Amber) or for all five? Or all ten, including the second series?
Not really spoilers at all. Mostly just commenting on your spoiled post.

Ah, cool.

** spoiler omitted **

Stylistic taste differences. :)

As for the rest, there's not much else I can say without getting into actual spoilers.


For fiction, 'City of the Fallen Sky' by Tim Pratt.

For non-fiction, 'Drugs Without The Hot Air' by David Nutt.


About Nine Princes in Amber, while Lord Snow asks "Why skip over the good parts?" I, like thejeff, would ask "Why fill up space with the boring parts?" That first book gave enough information such that by the time I finished it, I knew all the princes and princesses by name... and I am usually TERRIBLE with names!

It is true that...

Nine Princes in Amber:
...Corwin is no better morally than the next guy. Indeed, Corwin said so himself (in a later book). The fact that Oberon named Corwin his heir seems like a sorry excuse... until Corwin realizes something (again, in a later book.) The first book isn't exactly a struggle between good and evil, and for once, I don't think it has to be, for the premises and characters to be interesting.


But if you haven't started on The Guns of Avalon yet, I feel I should add that the "struggle against evil" part is coming soon.

Maybe I should correct my previous post, which, after all, I wrote in haste, late at night.

Nine Princes in Amber:
Maybe technically, Oberon didn't name an heir, because to name Corwin would have been to ensure his death. But he communicated to Corwin a command to take the throne, if I recall correctly.


One thing to realize stylistically in Nine Princes in Amber is that Corwin is effectively immortal, barring violent death. So he's doing things that he's done time and time before through the centuries. They're routine, in a way. If you wrote about your life, you might describe the first trip to the grocery store in detail, but not all of them after that. I think some of the brevity effectively underscores the difference between how he sees events and how we would. It also gives us a taste of the ennui of immortality.


Bear in mind that Corwin narrates the whole first 5 books, and that he is quickly established as an unreliable narrator. It seems likely that his truthfulness is not directly proportional to the book number, but rather remains a bit questionable throughout.

The only modern fantasy with a better use of narrator unreliability I can think of is Peter Straub's Shadowland,

Spoiler:
in which the narrator himself is never sure what's real and what's illusion, and neither is the reader.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Warren Ellis - Gun Machine

Cops accidentally find a room full of hundreds of guns, going way back, each of which seems to have been used once, for an unsolved murder.

It's great! (And it's Warren Ellis, so plenty of new swears ;) )

Paizo Employee Senior Editor

Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
URSULA K. LE GUIN ON RACISM, ANARCHY, AND HEARING HER CHARACTERS SPEAK

Well that just enlarged my reading list. ^_^

I just finished Visitant: A Venetian Ghost Story by Megan Chance and The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. In the latter, I particularly enjoyed

Spoiler:
Gemma's trip to Iceland to find her family, where even pre-internet she is able to do go in just a few days because it's such a small and intimate place.

But overall both kept making me think how much lots of historical romance plots and sideplots depend on women having limited access to good employment. Blar.

Now on to Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta, which is good but harrowing (deals with Nigerian Civil War and anti-LGBT oppression).

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