ThunderPeel2001

Books, books, books...

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@marginalgloss Thanks for the links! I've skimmed through the blog and the comments and frankly I'm even more conflicted about PSS now. Something to think about. Hmm.

 

@Beasteh TC&TC is my favourite of Miéville's, with Embassytown close behind. He really hit his stride with those two, in that the worlds are interesting but they're also concise.

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On 4/3/2017 at 0:28 PM, Beasteh said:

Good timing - I've just finished reading a couple of Miéville's novels. I did read PSS a few years ago, but it put me off reading any of his other works (that and his marxism, although it doesn't really come on strong in his work). Glad I went back.

 

He's incredibly imaginative when it comes to the worlds he creates. All I've read have excellent worldbuilding. Whereas PSS was a rambling epic, these two are mercifully short, and all the better for it:

 

The City and the City -  loved this one until the end (more on that in a moment). Ever been to another culture where something utterly bizzare is treated as normal? The way the two cities ignore each other is exactly that. It's crazy and yet it makes sense somehow. Nods to police drama tropes were a nice touch. The plot benefits from being a whodunnit that mutates into a conspiracy, but upon reaching its denoument, it fails to satisfy.

 

  Reveal hidden contents

Corporations did it to steal artifacts. How mundane! It's meant to read like a fake-out, but just feels like the author bottled it at the critical moment.

 

Embassytown - Miéville does SF, and he does it well! Makes the Ariekei really alien, generally avoiding typical SF tropes (such as "aliens are just like humans with one trait turned up to 11!"). I wish we learned more about their society though. Miéville also chooses to play with language - and this is central to the plot, rather than some kind of nerdery. Plot itself builds to a conclusion, stakes getting ever higher, and then sticks the landing. Probably the best one to read for folks new to Miéville.

Miéville is incredible, and not only would I recommend Embassytown as a great start for most people, I would argue it's his best book. What he does with language is absolutely marvelous. 

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My pile of books to read keeps getting bigger, and that plus the fact that I used to spend so much time and energy just figuring out what to read next made me restrict myself this year (and beyond) to a list of 25 books, all written by female authors from all around the world (just 'cause).

 

I started off with My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, which was such an enjoyable and evocative read that kinda reminded me of one of my favorite books (Éramos Seis by Maria José Dupré). I actually wasn't planning to read the entire series at first, but now I'll definitely have to accommodate them in my list, especially because my dad also started reading them on my recommendation and tore through the last two books in like a week and is now dying to discuss them with me lol.

 

Right now I'm reading The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich, which is a nonfiction book about the often forgotten role of women in WW2 with tons of accounts, interviews and the author's own thoughts about the process of making the book. And because this is quite harrowing and not the kind of thing that I can read through quickly, I also just started Prontos, listos, ya by Inés Bortagaray; I'm not super into it yet, but it's so short that I'll probably keep going even if I'm not all that impressed so far. =P

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On 4/25/2017 at 0:46 AM, designiana said:

My pile of books to read keeps getting bigger, and that plus the fact that I used to spend so much time and energy just figuring out what to read next made me restrict myself this year (and beyond) to a list of 25 books, all written by female authors from all around the world (just 'cause).

 

I started off with My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, which was such an enjoyable and evocative read that kinda reminded me of one of my favorite books (Éramos Seis by Maria José Dupré). I actually wasn't planning to read the entire series at first, but now I'll definitely have to accommodate them in my list, especially because my dad also started reading them on my recommendation and tore through the last two books in like a week and is now dying to discuss them with me lol.

 

Right now I'm reading The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich, which is a nonfiction book about the often forgotten role of women in WW2 with tons of accounts, interviews and the author's own thoughts about the process of making the book. And because this is quite harrowing and not the kind of thing that I can read through quickly, I also just started Prontos, listos, ya by Inés Bortagaray; I'm not super into it yet, but it's so short that I'll probably keep going even if I'm not all that impressed so far. =P

 

 

If you like The unwomanly face of war you should check out Second hand time and Chernobly prayer both by the same author. Both are really interesting looks into the late soviet union and post soviet Russia/CIS.

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On 5/4/2017 at 1:33 PM, seamus2389 said:

 

 

If you like The unwomanly face of war you should check out Second hand time and Chernobly prayer both by the same author. Both are really interesting looks into the late soviet union and post soviet Russia/CIS.

 

I actually also have those books sitting around in my shelf too and I'll have to get around to reading them for sure! 

 

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:tup:  Steven Spielberg and Duel: The Making of a Film Career is a really great and thorough book about the making of Spielberg's first feature film, the excellent TV movie Duel, that makes a pretty convincing case for it being one of Spielberg's most impressive achievements. It's a combination of history and criticism that, while spending a little too much time recapping plot points for my taste, tells the amazing story of how Spielberg did pre-production, shot and edited one of his best films over the course 2 months. Also, the story of how Federico Fellini became the world's first Spielberg fanboy.

 

It's a pretty quick read and a worthy companion to Carl Gottlieb's seminal book on the making of Jaws, The Jaws Log.

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:tup: The Haunting of Hill House is an absolutely extraordinary horror novel from Shirley Jackson, probably best known for it and her short story "The Lottery". The entire book (except for the opening and closing) is written from the perspective of a maladjusted young woman Eleanor who's just gone through a personal tragedy and is called upon for an extended stay in a notoriously haunted mansion. Because we see the story from her perspective, and because whatever spirits or ghosts occupy Hill House never come out and show themselves, the entire book is about the ambiguous space between Eleanor's sanity, Hill House's malevolent presence, and the awkward forced jovial relationships she has with the other people there, who come to rely on friendship and sarcasm to combat their fear of the mansion.

 

It's a really amazing book that marries supernatural horror with social anxiety and, because of how it uses it's third person limited perspective, Jackson's prose constantly finds fresh ways to describe horrors in plain sight while still existing in a maddeningly ambiguous space. Really cool book. 

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:tmeh: South and West is a new book from Joan Didion that collects her notes and observations from a trip she made through the American south in 1970 with the intent to write a piece that was ultimately never completed. It's certainly unpolished and incomplete feeling, but even as a catalog of sights and overheard conversations it's peppered with really fascinating details, particularly regarding race and the South's insular nature.

 

Hard to give it a firm recommendation when it does feel so thinly sketched, but it's short (easily read in a couple of hours) and I didn't regret my time with it.

 

EDIT: Oh yeah, it also collects her notes on a piece on Patty Hearst that she never ended up writing, but that feels even thinner and less vital.

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I just finished The Honorable Schoolboy which is the followup novel to Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy. Its really good, the focus on Southeast Asia is really interesting. There are some great moments in Cambodia and South Vietnam before their fall to the Khmer Rouge and North Vietnamese respectively. I am now super excited to read the last two Smiley novels.

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A recent article written in response to thinkpiece blaming the lack of female characters, especially protagonists, in sci-fi and fantasy on the lack of female authors just floated up on my newsfeed. It's explosive and, honestly, it calls out a problem that's existed in the industry and the fandom since genre fiction really began to be a thing. Even if you leave aside ignoring female-authored works like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, which is ridiculous given their fame and profitability, you're ignoring authors like Ursula K. LeGuin, C.J. Cherryh, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffery... I could go on forever. As sci-fi and fantasy have been integrated into the mainstream cultural discourse, the fandom's unfortunate tendency to boil the development of those genres into a lineage from Tolkien to Brooks to Jordan to Martin has been ossified into accepted fact. Who cares if Mary Shelley wrote one of (if not the first) sci-fi/fantasy novels? Women haven't put in the sweat equity to deserve roles in adaptations of such works, obviously. It's frustrating and disgusting.

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On 7/20/2017 at 11:17 AM, Gormongous said:

A recent article written in response to thinkpiece blaming the lack of female characters, especially protagonists, in sci-fi and fantasy on the lack of female authors just floated up on my newsfeed. It's explosive and, honestly, it calls out a problem that's existed in the industry and the fandom since genre fiction really began to be a thing. Even if you leave aside ignoring female-authored works like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, which is ridiculous given their fame and profitability, you're ignoring authors like Ursula K. LeGuin, C.J. Cherryh, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffery... I could go on forever. As sci-fi and fantasy have been integrated into the mainstream cultural discourse, the fandom's unfortunate tendency to boil the development of those genres into a lineage from Tolkien to Brooks to Jordan to Martin has been ossified into accepted fact. Who cares if Mary Shelley wrote one of (if not the first) sci-fi/fantasy novels? Women haven't put in the sweat equity to deserve roles in adaptations of such works, obviously. It's frustrating and disgusting.

 

I feel pretty uncomfortable with boosting Marion Zimmer Bradley considering she was a monstrous child abuser who helped cover up the crimes of other sexual predators.

 

Edit - to be clear I strongly agree with your general point.

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1 hour ago, therealdougiejones said:

I feel pretty uncomfortable with boosting Marion Zimmer Bradley considering she was a monstrous child abuser who helped cover up the crimes of other sexual predators.

 

Edit - to be clear I strongly agree with your general point.

 

I'm not boosting her, just saying that she exists and was/is notable in the genre. I mean, if the ranks of female authors are deep enough for a major one to be the center of a scandal like that, then the argument that there are no female authors of notability is even more patently false.

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46 minutes ago, Gormongous said:

 

I'm not boosting her, just saying that she exists and was/is notable in the genre. I mean, if the ranks of female authors are deep enough for a major one to be the center of a scandal like that, then the argument that there are no female authors of notability is even more patently false.

 

As far as being another dimension of what's wrong with that piece, yeah you're right. Didn't mean to try to assume your intentions. I actually only recently heard about the scandal and I suppose it was particularly strong in the back of my mind.

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Just finished Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah's Thirty Year Struggle Against Israel. Its a really interesting and balanced history of Hezbollah. They are one of the most important forces in the Middle East today and have been involved in many crucial events. Hopefully the author publishes an update relating to what Hezbollah is up to in Syria.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11400597-warriors-of-god?ac=1&from_search=true

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I read several books over the holidays, most of which I greatly enjoyed. Top of the list is Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me which managed to write a bunch of stuff about the black US (and to some extent Western) experience down in such a basic, incontrovertible way that it really hit home hard. Second, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, one of the most emotionally affecting books I've read in quite some time. It admittedly gets there at times by being almost over-the-top nasty to its characters, but some of the most moving stuff is actually the positivity, friendship and great-heartedness. A book that could have been a lot shorter yet never outstayed its welcome for me. Third, I finally got around to Silence by Shusako Endo. Kind of fell flat in some ways because the religious impulse is entirely alien to me, so the whole thing felt like an incredibly depressing waste of time of energy on the characters' parts, made even bleaker by the historical facts.

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I read both Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem twice over the course of the last couple weeks, and they're both very close to my favorite science fiction books. They're very light on actually explaining the science (which is a plus in my eyes, honestly) while referring to it in terms that are endearingly weird. I've been trying to push both of them on people for a while now. 

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14 minutes ago, Kyir said:

I read both Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem twice over the course of the last couple weeks, and they're both very close to my favorite science fiction books. They're very light on actually explaining the science (which is a plus in my eyes, honestly) while referring to it in terms that are endearingly weird. I've been trying to push both of them on people for a while now. 

 

I read Ninefox Gambit, during my brief attempt to have an opinion on this year's Hugos, and enjoyed it the most out of everything I read. Lee's plotting is intricate and precise, his characters human while still being very exotic and alien in the way they live, and his settings are the best in the biz now that Banks is dead. I mostly disliked its simultaneously rushed and slack third act, but it basically moved the needle from A+ to A for me, which isn't saying as much as one might think, given my standards for sci-fi.

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I finally got around to reading Iron Council by China Miéville, the third entry in his Bas-Lag trilogy. I think that it is my least favourite of the three (currently The Scar > PSS > IC). One of the things that I liked about it but didn't feel like Miéville went far enough was in the presentation of the world through a subjective viewpoint. Whereas the previous two books generally showed the world in all of its detail and complexity and then situated its protagonists inside, IC felt like it was doing the opposite. We only see the world through the eye of the characters, and they believe themselves to be in the right even when doing morally compromising things. However, there were a handful of occasions where this is broken and we're given the full story of something from the sidelines and I think it dilutes the potency of the depiction of the revolution. There is also a style shift in the writing of a long flashback section that I didn't enjoy. The events were interesting and I enjoyed the little callbacks to PSS and The Scar, but I found myself forcing myself to read IC rather than wanting to read it.

 

Another thing that I felt was important was the notion of place, and specifically high-density urban spaces as a setting for a fantasy world. PSS had New Crobuzon and The Scar had Armada... and IC only touches on the city at times but it never feels present like in the other books. I'm all for developing an idea rather than introducing a new set but Iron Council felt a bit lacklustre in that regard. Overall, I think it's fine. It's just fine, whereas Miéville has been exceptional in his other books.

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Interesting, I liked all the things you mentioned and they make IC my favourite of the Bas-Lag books. Have you read The City and the City? I think it's my favourite overall of his works, but it also mostly deals in perspective.

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@osmosisch The City & The City is my favourite of Miéville's. It has an interesting central idea and it develops it really well, whereas the Bas-Lag books were more about continuously dumping new ideas on top of one another. There is still space in that world for more stories but I am more interested in his other standalone novels.

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