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Thread: Books and the reading thereof

  1. #51
    Member
    Registered: Sep 1999
    Location: No Maps for These Territories
    Recently finished The Circle. Clever, well-written and hitting a sweet spot between satire and foreboding in the depiction of our bright dystopia of tomorrow. Eggers is a bit heavy-handed in the delivery of his major punchline, but apart from that, a great read.

  2. #52
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2003
    Location: Darmstadt, Germany
    I just finished Tau Zero by Poul Anderson (for the second time, I'd just forgotten to include it in my previous post) and I'd like to read something in the same vein (effects of time dilation on passengers and observers). In the novel, Poul Anderson concentrates on the ship so we never know what's going on with the rest of humanity. In A World Out of Time Larry Niven does explore both viewpoints quite well, so maybe something in a similar vein? Does anyone have any suggestion for such a book?

  3. #53
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2002
    Location: Cologne
    Me and the wife tried to get into The Lies of Locke Lamora but found it had too much of a Oliver modern Twist. We enjoy Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea a lot though. Thanks to the person who pointed this out.

  4. #54
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by Kolya View Post
    Me and the wife tried to get into The Lies of Locke Lamora but found it had too much of a Oliver modern Twist. We enjoy Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea a lot though. Thanks to the person who pointed this out.
    Um... this will change drastically once Locke is sold away. Also, if you liked Wizard of Earthsea, chances are good you might like The Left Hand of Darkness as well.

  5. #55
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    @DJ, Joe Haldeman's The Forever War. Everytime the main character goes on leave back to earth or wherever several centuries have passed, human culture and even the language is much different, and his bank account has compounded millions or billions in interest.

  6. #56
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2005
    Location: Netherlands
    I've read Ender's Game. I liked it, it was good, but I don't know if it's completely worthy of the timeless classic status it has. But it must be said that I already watched the movie before reading the book, so the main twist was spoiled for me. I've heard the later books are of lesser quality, so I don't know if I'm going to read them. This was an enjoyable read, at least, but I've read science fiction books that aren't nearly as well-known, that I've liked more than Ender's Game.

    Also read John Dies At The End by Cracked.com writer David Wong, which I was a little disappointed by, after all the praise it got. It's not that the book completely sucks, but the characters are paper-thin with too little attention to character development. Instead, the focus is on low-brow humor, a lot of blood&gore and detailed descriptions of grotesque monsters, which I often like in movies but doesn't do much for me in written form. I like to read horror books, but I prefer them to be less about the monsters etc. themselves, and more about what being confronted with monsters etc. does to a person, which is something I think Stephen King does well. What can be said in favor of the book is that it's effective in communicating the feeling of losing your mind and going insane, due to being confronted with horrors beyond your comprehension. There's a lot of random weird stuff going on that isn't always explained, and the characters don't understand it either, hence the feeling of losing it.

    Now I'm reading a book called An Asperger Marriage. A husband with Asperger's syndrome and a wife without autism talk in turns about their relationship, the things that are going well and the things they have trouble with. Being an aspie and married myself, I'm interested to see how much I'll recognize in the aspie husband, and what the non-autistic wife's perspective on the relationship is, in order to get a better view on what my wife has to deal with.

  7. #57
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    This Book is Full of Spiders is probably better than John Dies, but then I liked both, so you may not get as much mileage out of the second as I did.
    However, his newer book "Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits" is a damn good read too, and probably a more mature, accomplished one.

    If you like that kind of stuff, I can recommend some other similar stuff:
    Charles Stross and his "Laundry" series. Urban supernatural fiction with a James Bond meets C'thulhu thing going on. His exploration of vampirism in particular is rather horrifying and hilarious at the same time.
    Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim books, a pulpy take on similar themes featuring compelling characters. However, every book is pretty much "Sandman Slim saves the world AGAIN."
    Mur Lafferty's "Shambling Guides", stories about someone writing Rough Guides to cities for the supernatural element. Again, can get a little too carried away with saving the world, but is written with enough verve to keep me interested.

    If you want similar themes in an alternate history scenario, I can highly recommend Ian Tregillis' Milkweed Triptych consisting of the books Bitter Seeds, The Coldest War and Necessary Evil.
    Also by Tregillis and very good is his recently finished Alchemy Wars trilogy, another alternate history series, but in a steampunk world dominated by the Netherlands.

    I don't read a book a day, nowhere near, but I do read a lot.
    I'm currently reading Hyperion by Dan Simmons, a series I'd never heard of before until Google recommended it. And holy shit, is this a good book. Sol Weintraub's tale in particular really hit me hard. I'm near the end and have the follow-up, "The Fall of Hyperion", already lined up.

    Before that, I read "Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow", Yuval Noah Harari's follow up to "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind", both of which are incredibly thought provoking, if a little strident in reinforcing the author's own vegan agenda. They're not explicitly about veganism, but his lifestyle definitely influences his writing.

    There's a few sci fi novels I've read recently which have been absolutely stellar, with a particular favourite being Anne Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy, Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy. While the last ends somewhat abruptly, the series as a whole is still an incredible achievement. The first book in particular will have you confused for a while as you try and work out what's going on, but once you do, it challenges preconceived notions you may hold.

    But even that's not my favourite series of recent years.
    That honour lies with a trilogy written by a British sci fi author called Chris Beckett, an ex-social worker.
    The trilogy consists of the books Dark Eden, Mother of Eden and Daughter of of Eden. The set-up for the trilogy is a short story he includes in his anthology "The Turing Test". And it's less about the science (although that itself is intriguing), and more about him exploring in depth a theoretical social experiment "what if...?"
    To give you some idea, it's about a human society on an alien planet wholly derived from two people who ended up stranded there. He extrapolates incredibly, taking into account the genetic defects that would come to the fore in such a limited gene pool, the evolution of language based on a limited lexicon and lack of literacy, as well as the mythology that would build up around "Earth".
    The first book, Dark Eden, deservedly won the Arthur C. Clarke award, but the second and third books are an even greater achievement as far as I'm concerned.

    These days I very, very rarely read hard copies. I pretty much exclusively use an E-Ink device, with my current one being a Kobo Aura H2O, which I manage with Calibre.

  8. #58
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Yeah, I have a Kobo Aura H2O too, great for reading in bath. At first I hated the way it handled PDFs, but luckily it let me install a better reader on it (KOReader is a must addition, as is KSM). I also have lists of Chinese words I'm learning set up as a randomized power off screen message, so it doubles as a sort of a flashcard device when it's turned off.

  9. #59
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    Yeah, I've been using e-Ink devices pretty much constantly and exclusively since the release of the Sony PRS-505. Treated myself to it after passing a course at work some 9 years ago now.

    I've been through all the big name e-Ink providers and settled on Kobo as being the best for openness of their devices.

    The most annoying thing is just how delicate the damn things are, but the convenience outweighs that for me.
    I've since read so many books I wouldn't have considered reading before because of sheer physical size.
    And while I like having books on shelves, there's only so much space I have available. A digital library has no such concerns. Cloud-based and accessible from anywhere too

  10. #60
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Yup, I love my dead tree edition books, but I'm also starting to run out of space for them and they are a real hassle when I move into a new place. Not to mention that digital books are so much cheaper. Also, one thing I didn't really know I always wanted is a built-in dictionary. So much more convenient to just tap a word and look it up in an instant.

    I resisted e-readers a long time, but the long battery life (as opposed to tablets) and especially the new E-ink Carta was enough to win me over. I read a lot, so it's kind of important for the books to look as good as possible. It also helps that I can install my own fonts with Kobo. Especially for languages like Japanese and Chinese, it can be a real lifesaver.

  11. #61
    Member
    Registered: Dec 2005
    Location: swimming in pickled herring
    You are not alone, but you are killing me! Around four years ago, I started a spare time job building built-in bookshelves. For the last two years it has been my (almost) only source of income. In 2016 and so far this year, I have taken on 13 projects. Out of those, 12 were "entertainment centers". On the plus side, the one true set of bookshelves was a massive wall of shelving 36' long by 16' high! I personally have a book collection of over 800 books, though the vast majority are paperbacks. My friends have all forsworn helping me move ever again, not just because of the books, but also because of my fossil collection. Boxes of books and boxes of rocks, somehow not popular with my aging friends, who would have guessed?

  12. #62
    Member
    Registered: Dec 2005
    Location: swimming in pickled herring
    Oh, more in line with this thread, I remember enjoying (somewhat, I had some reservations) a book called "Snowcrash" by Neal Stephenson. I know I owned it at one point in time, but can't put my hand on it now. I may have loaned it out and lost it, or it may just be lost in one of my many boxes. Can anyone offer their opinion on it, is it worth tracking down for a reread?

  13. #63
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    It's a very good book, one of the cornerstones of the cyberpunk sub-genre.
    I didn't read it for a long time, but when I did finally get around to it, while some of the computing terms and tech were outdated, the overall story was compelling.

    Neal Stephenson does not write short books however. Snowcrash is less guilty of his tendency towards inane filler than some of his later stuff (Cryptonomicon, I'm looking at you), but it still meanders rather aimlessly sometimes.

    If you're interested in more cyberpunk, I also highly recommend Rudy Rucker's Ware Tetralogy and Jeff Noon's trilogy of Vurt, Pollen and Nymphomation.
    Noon's more interested in playing with language than the science behind his fiction, but he takes the reader to some wonderfully weird places.
    Rudy Rucker takes the reader to some equally weird places (both feature drugs quite prominently in their writing), and while not quite as poetic as Noon, still obviously enjoys playing with big ideas and language.

  14. #64
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    Yeah Cryptonomicon is what I was trying to read last month or so, and it got to a point about a quarter in I was thinking wtf is even going on here. It's just one arbitrary tangent after another. I actually lost my bookmark one time and accidentally skipped ahead dozens, maybe even over 100 pages ahead and didn't even notice after an hour or so of reading before I realized it was mentioning things assuming I knew them that I hadn't read yet. It's the kind of story where that can happen.

  15. #65
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: Sulphur, whatever
    A quick question since people are into cyberpunk: how much cyberpunk deals with the inner workings of the tech and the implications of it? I've only read Gibson, and I know for a fact he's bigger on the existential angst and corporate dystopia angle that cyberpunk enables, but do the other authors do stuff that deals with the workings of brain-computer interfaces, security layers, legislation, things like that?

    The reason I'm asking is partly because I'm curious, and partly because I have a few ideas I'd like to explore, but very little in sci-fi hasn't been trod into the ground already, so I don't want to unintentionally rehash a bunch of things when I could just, you know, rehash them intentionally (if I ever get to writing this stuff, that is).

  16. #66
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    To be honest, cyberpunk tends to hand-wave that stuff away. Stephenson's generally one of the authors more obsessed with the tech, but that's probably because it gives him an excuse to write pages of tangential waffle.
    It's mostly about consciousness, AI and what it means to be human in the information age. Personally, that's what interests me more. I find that when it tries to get too technical, it quite quickly becomes outdated due to the sheer pace of advancement we experience these days, and loses focus on the more interesting, philosophical ideas.

    One of the ones I recommended above, Rudy Rucker's Ware Tetralogy made that mistake early on. In the first book, he started talking about how much computer memory it would take to store the contents of the human mind, and as he wrote it in the Eighties, his estimates are rather... quaint. We're talking gigabytes.
    The author himself realised his mistake, and veered away from being too granular later on in the series.

    Another stunningly good cyberpunk novel I've just remembered is Ian McDonald's "Out on Blue Six". It's more along the messy lines of Rucker and Noon than Gibson's rather clinical approach, and possesses that sense of anarchy that brings the necessary punk to the cyber.

    You could also try Cory Doctorow, he of BoingBoing fame. His books are passable, but I find that too often he's trying to ape Gibson by purposefully attempting to predict the future, where Gibson in his earlier novels effortlessly invented it. Essentially, where Doctorow is a technologist first, Gibson is most definitely a writer first.

    But above everything else, if you want a cyberpunk book that really challenges you and expands your ideas of what's possible, read Jeff Noon's Vurt. It's dirty, hallucinatory, poetic, breathless and compelling. Calling it the Trainspotting of cyberpunk is doing it a disservice, but that's the closest comparison I can make.

  17. #67
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: Sulphur, whatever
    Thanks, Malf. Vurt's my next pit stop once I'm done with my current set of books.

  18. #68
    Member
    Registered: Sep 1999
    Location: No Maps for These Territories
    Not cyberpunk, but Greg Egan is a must for anybody interested in visions of far future human-machine interaction and artificial intelligence societies. Permutation City and Diaspora especially are fantastic.

  19. #69
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2004
    Just finished China in Ten Words. Pretty fascinating cultural look at growing up in China during the revolutionary days.

  20. #70
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2004
    Aaand also wrapped up The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson. Pretty cool premise and short, tho it does kinda drag in the middle.

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