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Psychophant

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Psychophant last won the day on May 2 2021

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  • Birthday 10/01/1966

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  1. Our hotel in Nuremberg.
  2. The English part of the recent reads. Many is my own obsessions completing series. Piranesi, Sussanna Clarke. This is a strange but excellent book. It requires some work to get into it, as the narrator is evidently unreliable, though things improve. Add a homage to Piranesi, besides the title, and several mysteries to reveal. Most of them are solved satisfactorily too. It is totally different from her previous novel, but still riveting and exciting. It is much shorter too. The employees: A workplace novel or the 22nd century, Olga Ravn. This is a book that requires some work, and that at least in my case I reread it inmediately to review the story with all I learnt while reading it. Something is/has happened on a spaceship, and the book are the interviews to members of the crew, during and after the event. The reader has to build his/her own version of the story from these fragments, including choosing who to believe, and how to interpret those part outside our own references, and how do you interpret the human / synthetic divide. It is short, so I did not care for having to go back and reread other fragments. Atmospheric and troubling, including some questions on being sapient (that for us now is synonimous with being Human, but may not be in the future). Fashionpolice pushed me into this, but I enjoyed it a lot. Red Country, Joe Abercrombie. Another Abercrombie book in the world of The first law. The story stands on its own quite well, but many of the supporting cast (and one is quite important) come from previous books, so although it is not necessary to have read all the previous books, it makes things clearer. This is a western transplanted into fantasy. Missing children, restless natives, violent men and women with troubled pasts, gold rush, wagons in a prairie... And it is well done, though maybe respecting the limits of the genre too much. That also means the plot is more linear and predictable than other Abercrombie books. There are a few likable characters, which help, considering how nasty most of the returning characters are. The long way to a small, angry planet, Becky Chambers. I feel as if I am the last person here to read this book. I really enjoyed this book, though it is more light entertainment. Although it is presented as part of a series, it stands perfectly well on its own, so feel free to check it. I was going to write adventures, but even though they live a great adventure, what we have here is common peaceful people caught up in big events by doing what they do best, and as usually happens to common people, they suffer for it. Common does not mean normal, and the cast is varied and quite interesting. Maybe it shows my age, but aliens are more of the humans in make up variety and taken to the extreme than really alien, but it fits well with the trope of small ship traveling the galaxy. For me it actually felt as Jack Vance's Gaean Reach or Cj Cherryh's trader stories, but adapted to the XXIst century. No secret agents of the AIs or trigger happy mercenaries in the stars, just a construction team working hard and with varied back stories. I will be reading more of her books. First person singular: stories, Haruki Murakami. This is a series of short stories that are narrated in the first person and that could all be supposed to be narrated by Mr. Murakami himself, though only the title story, First Person Singular, does explicitly say this. They narrate some weird, some magical and some mundane events that at the same time seem relatively minor but also affect significantly the life of the narrator. I believe Mr. Murakami expresses a particular style of maleness I can identify with, a bit clueless, sometimes cruel by indifference or ignorance, and well intentioned, though he is also proof that good intentions are not enough. He helps me to come to terms with myself. It is a short book, so I savoured it slowly. A couple of stories did not work for me, but it is so short that I will not say names, as they may be the ones that touch you more. It is very subjective, so I will not impose criteria that may depend on my own life experience. Manazuru, Hiromi Kawakami. A complex book, with an unreliable narrator that does not trust herself and who may have blocked memories from the past. As well, the tough moments of raising up a teenage girl without a father. I feel it complements very well, with the ghosts and the oniric experiences in the town of Manazuru, and a middle age mother based on the writer, a feminine point of view complementing Murakami’s masculine and childless one. Mainly because it is so different from my own situation it is both strange and interesting. The book requires quite a lot of work, in deciding what you think happened with Reí, and what is happening with Kei. But it rewards the effort with a good, emotional tale and real character development. Quite a lot from a little over 200 pages. Reflecting on it, I wonder if the reason why it reminds me of Murakami is that the translator is Michael Emmerich, and I have read all his Murakami translations? It has not happened with her other novels. The heroes, Joe Abercrombie. Though it belongs to the same set as The First Law trilogy and shares several characters with it, it can be read independently. It takes place some seven years after the First Law and a couple of years after Best Served Cold. It is a battle in a dark fantasy, from multiple viewpoints, so blood, gore and all kinds of violence are presented, though in my opinion better than in The First Law. As such, I think it presents quite well the randomness and stupidity of battle, the friction as Von Clausewitz would say. But it still requires a high tolerance for written violence. The hanging tree, Ben Aaranovitch. This far (the sixth book) in the Rivers of London series reviews do not matter as much. Either you are into it, or you will not even think about it. It is witty, well written and easy to read. I did not like it so much is because it gives us hope that some of the big story arcs will move forward, and at the end they move, but only a bit. Lies sleeping, Ben Aaranovitch. This is not the end of Peter Grant and the Rivers of London (7th), but it marks a change in the series, which I feel should have come in the previous book, to complete the story after Foxglove Summer. The author has tried to fit too many things, and many details or characters from previous books, with the end result that there are many loose ends and they are dealt with in short time and with little flair. Less characters and more screen time for them would have made a more satisfactory story. The impression is that this stage had to be closed, and that meant other things had to be rushed, including the ending, which I found unsatisfactory. But I am so happy to close this that I hope the series returns to single arc novels. What Abigail did that summer, Ben Aaranovitch. It was worth to read the whole Rivers of London series to enjoy this small book. It is positive, funny and smart, with a great heroine and an amusing cast of characters. Its only defect is that to enjoy it fully you need to read the whole series. It is more wholesome than the typical Peter Grant story, but that is a plus in this case. That strengthens the idea of magic. A must read for any fan of the series. The events are concurrent with book 5, Foxglove Summer, which is my previous favorite. Permafrost, Alastair Reynolds. It is a nice time travel short novel, with a great premise and a good handling of paradox. As it is quite short, almost any detail would be spoilerish. But the reasons to try are good, the set up is also good, and it does not use multiple universes, which is a cop out in time travel. This is the type of time travel tale I would have liked to see in The Agency. A little hatred, Joe Abercrombie. Mr. Abercrombie revisits with a new generation the Chain of the World. Some old favorites are still around, but we meet a new generation of narrators / protagonists. If I had written the review just after finishing I would have been gushing, but once I got over the pleasure of having a new series, the defects, mainly in plot and world building as the writing is very good, start to pile up. So much that I am still unsure if I will get the next one, as it can only go worse from the set up. Dark, moody, with some young people in love. Lots of people get hurt, but this is just the set up. The industrialization seems contrived, and I would have preferred less similarities with work movements in Earth. A closed and common orbit, Becky Chambers. Although it is the same series as the previous book, The long way to a small, angry planet, it does not continue the adventures of the Wayfarer crew. Instead it focus in two minor characters of the previous book, the mechanic Pepper and Sidra, the new name of the AI Lovelace replacement, now housed in a body. It deals with growing up in a harsh or world, or awakening in it, and how to cope with disphoria or inadequacy. It is less optimistic and upbeat than the first book, but I hope it does not require a spoiler to say things improve and it gets a proper ending. As any good science fiction book should, it actually writes about our present but using the tropes of science fiction to present some ethics troubles (child labour, gene modification, AI rights) openly. Although you will miss some of the background, it does not reallyrequire having read the previous book. It is still probably too positive, but it does not pull many punches, and it is a more complex and for me more enjoyable book than the first one.
  3. The fact that nobody writes does not mean nobody reads. I suppose you will never read this either, but I have to say it was nice to have someone posting in 2022. Even if it is just as part of learning to care a bit less about the form, and hopefully more about the content.
  4. The difference between 50-60% resistance and zero is huge, even if it would be much better to be at 80-90%, not to mention the reduction in mortality. And for me, it clearly separates you from those that do not wish to get it, and the unlucky ones that do not have much hope of getting it any soon. Or are too young to really benefit from it.
  5. As getting one is a kind of compromise of getting the second (and soon, the third...) jab, I prefer to count it as vaccined. My wife got her second Pfizer yesterday. We decided to spread the risk, so we got different ones, which is why I got Moderna.
  6. I have a first dose and will get the second the 14th of June.
  7. Just a poll on how vaccination progresses among our population.
  8. 4 months later, with patch 1.21, I have finally finished Cyberpunk 2077, with small periods when I tried the patch of the day to see if they had solved my particular crash. It is infuriating, because you can see the tons of work, the potential, the sparks of glory, and it is surrounded by unbreakable railroads, countless bugs and performance problems, and missing opportunities that were well established in other games ten years ago. It is the excellent writing in some side missions and the great atmosphere you get at times what makes it worse when it fails. I tried all of the endings and I am happy that the most satisfactory one was the one I picked first. Quite fitting with the No Future, No happy endings of Cyberpunk literature, but still quite bleak. Keanu clearly invested a lot in his Silverhand role, and it helps, even if you hate him most of the time. The main story is a shambles, you have long pointless conversations, the character progression is random, and the crafting and improvement parts seem bolted in late. But the details really make it for me. How many gigs connect, how events appear in the conversation afterwards. And the non-combat scenes are welcome, at least for me, except for car races. The interface is so buggy and random that it becomes a chore. It has many details of a graphic novel, interspersed with a limited FPS and broken down RPG elements, with astounding visuals and attention to small details. I still like to ramble for 15 minutes in my car, taking the sights and watching the landscape and the people.
  9. I have ben trying, without success, getting The employees in English. And apparently no problems getting it in French. Any comments on the quality of the translation, and if one of the French speakers has read it in French, what is their opinion? As the original is in Danish, I need a translated one anyway, and Spanish is not an option right now. If it gets the booker price I suppose it will be translated in Spanish, but I prefer not to wait. As reading, mainly Spanish literature. Julian Marias connected novels Berta Isla and Tomas Nevinson. The stress of secrets, and what more secret than working for a secret service, and how it affects all around you. Pedantic and overwrought, I love his mastery of the Spanish language. So I can only recommend it if you read it in the original Spanish. I am also reading archeology works on Roman legions, camps and tactics. Mainly pdf through Academia.org. We have several camp ruins nearby, and I also got caught in the mystery of the fate of the IXth legion, and also how British nationalism wanted to have it destroyed by the Caledonians or the Britons. A deep rabbit hole of stele inscriptions and Roman politics, combined with nationalism and a popular series of novels.
  10. Work and life got complicated in February, and work at least even more complicated in March. I hope I can find some stability now. I started the reread of Stephenson's Reamde, but I could not finish it. Then I went for Fall, as that was the reason for the reread, and I have abandoned it around page 350. He tries too hard, and the only one character I care, a little, is Dodge himself, and I think that is spillover from Reamde. The first 300 pages are an introduction, and possibly another attempt by Stephenson to be considered a serious futurist, which is where he is always behind, despite his actual technical knowledge, compared to Sterling or Gibson. Because he sees only a small window, and misses the picture. Eventually I will get back to it, because it is interesting and informative, but that is not what I am looking for now. So after the Fall fiasco, I was quite succesful with Japanese writers. After the overdose of Banana Yoshimoto in January, I read Hiromi Kawakami's The Nakano Thrift Shop. The book is more a collection of short stories, or “vignettes”, in the life of the four main characters, than a coherent whole. However they progress chronologically and they build on the previous ones. The characters grow and change. The final chapter serves as an epilogue to in a way tie up the loose ends. I really enjoy the window the author opens on a Japanese woman’s life, even if it is only how close we are in most things, as well as so alien in others. The four main characters are somehow outsiders that nevertheless have managed to find a place. However they still are torn between conformity and happiness. The novel does not resolve the dilemma, and in a way the reader can choose how it goes. All the characters are lovable, even with their defects, and you end up caring about them, which shows the skill of the author in building up a small universe in a thrift shop. As I felt there was aconnection between Mr. Nakano and Mr. Nishino, possibly due to all the womanizing, I reread The Ten Loves of Mr. Nishino, from the same author. And yes they have their similarity, though without the counterpoint of his sister. It lacks the progression we see in the Nakano Thrift Shop, however. It is a pleasure to read full stories that you can savor in a few hours. So I continued with Sayaka Murata Convenience Store Woman. This is a short book about trying to conform, and finding your place. Though it is quite specifically Japanese, most of it, with different details, could fit anywhere. It starts as a comedy, but halfway it becomes an unflattering view of society, with some uneasy moments as normality is shown as fake. That will resonate more powerfully on those people who feel life should have an instruction manual and that others know something you don’t. The ending, while unsatisfactory, is the only one that fits. With my mood fitting ordered lives and short reads, I read in Spanish Yanagi Soetsu The beauty of everyday things. This is a collection of essays and articles presenting his views on the artistic value of everyday objects. Sometimes philosophical, sometimes very specific, they span a period of over 40 years where his efforts became popular and influenced art and design in Japan and abroad. I went to him because I was looking for the principles behind the Muji Stores, and, as far as I know, he was the one who first recognized the intrinsic value of simplicity ("muji") in common objects, one of the greates effects of Japanese arts and crafts in the rest of the world. As in all collected works there are some pearls, but also some failures. He was still a man of his period and with certain aesthetic snobbism (rejecting machine manufactured objects, and therefore ignoring design as an art), and you have to work through some dross to find those pearls. I am also reading a vanity ress autobiography of a friend of my father, dealing with industrialization in Franco's Spain, and how the automotive industry worked to fulfill the regime's aim of a car in every hoesehold, and how that at the end killed all homegrown initiatives to become colonized by the multinationals. As that is also a big chunk of my father's life, it is personally interesting, even if the writing is dreadful. Finally my brother loaned me his 1928 edition of Lowell Thomas' Raiders of the Deep. This is a book on German submarine warfare in the First World War, written by an American journalist based on interviews after the war. Apparently it was compulsory reading for German submarine officers in the Second World War, which is ironic on a way, as the tactics and systems were quite different, but also understandable, as it presents the submarine officers as gentlemen corsairs, an elite breed of technological fighting aristocrats. I can only assume that either they did not describe the drudgery and claustrophobic stress of a submarine, or the author preferred to gloss it over and focus on the courage of crewing a ship that might not surface each time it submerged and where you really were alone against the world. Interesting but flawed, in my opinion, based mostly on reading later submarine accounts, but also showing the kind of book that influenced the following generation of submariners.
  11. Michael Swanwick's "The Iron Dragon's Mother", despite the title, has more in common with the "Dragons of Babel" than "The Iron Dragon's Daughter", but does not really need reading those two books. The book is more polished than the other two, with Dark Faerie more consistent and developed, but that is not necessarily good, because the unexplained events and weird magic is one of the things that make Faerie so compelling. The characters are likable, though we do not see the same character development we got in TIDD. So despite similar ages it is more a suspense romp than a coming of age book. It gets better in the second half, but that may just be because I really like Raven. I may look those Aaranovitch stories, as I also read "Foxglove Summer" the fifth novel in the "Rivers of London" series, and I liked it a lot. It felt good to get out of London for a while, and the level of violence and anguish is much lower than usual. But maybe it is that some expected personal developments finally go right for Peter, and if you are this far in the series, you have to be rooting for him. Starting Stephenson's "Fall, or Dodge in Hell", but I am unsure whether to reread "Reamde" or not. I did not like it the first time, which is why I have not reread it.
  12. The Cyberpunk 2077 fiasco (unsolved unusual bug that blocks me at 75% of the storyline) has left me more time for reading. However I am mostly rereading in preparation of two anticipated books. I first finished my scheduled reread of Banana Yoshimoto's Hardboiled / Hard Luck and Goodbye Tsugumi, mainle because they are short sweet books, great for reading while on a load screen or rebooting a computer. Hardboiled / Hard Luck are two novellas in one book, totally unrelated except in how people handle loss and grieving, a common thread in most of the author work. Hardboiled has an almost Murakami supernatural feel, of the kind that you have to decide if it happened or if it was only in the narrator way, with a ghost helping the narrator cope with her lover's loss, after breaking up with her. The second is more inmediate, about the strange emotional landscape you could be, with your sister in an irreversible coma just before her marriage. Goodbye Tsugumi seemed at first more of the same, coming of age while your childhood friend, almost invalid, will leave your life forever, but becomes surprisingly positive, with a violent twist and then a positive outcome that are both not what I expected. Nice recall of summer in a Japanese tourist town that makes you wish to go. Then I got Port of Shadows, from Glen Cook, a new Black Company novel. So I reread the two books it lies in between, The Black Company and Shadows Linger (books 1 and 2). Which brought some more rereading, till I finished all the action in the North (The White Rose and The Silver Spike).Those books were written in 1984, so the style now is totally different, except two parts that were already published as short stories, which resemble much more the old style. The book also has some problems with mistreatment of female minors that I understand can be troublesome for many people, though coming from 1984 it felt right for ruthless mercenaries working for the bad guys. But, at least for me, the patchwork style, the troubling ideas and the fully unreliable narrator (more unreliable than usual) were secondary compared to revisiting a series I used to be emotionally involved, revisiting favored characters long gone, as well as a look into the past of the setting and of some key characters. A must, with some forewarning, for fans of the series, to avoid for all others as most of the references and back story require previous reading. I also have got Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Mother, but I am still finishing a reread of The Iron Dragon's Daughter, to get back into his dark Faerie before tackling the book. They are supposed to be non-sequential, but with that title I preferred to be up to date, and it has been a long time since my last reread. On this reread I find that the Faerie setting is a gimmick, a way to mix magic with technology and to keep a pseudo-victorian setting with modernity. But it works, the opression of children's labor, the horrors of dark magic and pre-ordained fate, mixed with high school angst and wild university years. He has also several short stories and another novel in the same setting that are also highly recommended. I have read relatively recent The Dragons of Babel, a kind of follow up the previous novel, so I will not read it now, but depending on how much I enjoy The Iron Dragon's Mother I may end up fishing it out. I have added Convenience Store Woman to the pile, as well as a few others that I will comment as I progress through them, as well as a couple of French, Spanish and Italian books that will never be translated in English, so I will not list them here.
  13. For me it is a matter of perceived signal to noise, as what I consider noise is signal to others. So in the same way Twitter became an impossible time sink for a compulsive reader, Slack quickly became impossible to follow without a high investment in time, if you really need to follow it all. A binary response, I know, but I am finding myself less flexible as I age. A second factor is that the crowd in Slack is mainly the twitter community that grew up the last 12-15 years, so mature enough, and not a nostalgy haven for a board that effectively died ten years ago, even if we are playing at being a small village of indomitable gauls, but probably just feelingnostalgia for who we were twenty years ago.
  14. Privacy apart, Slack has, for me, similar problems to Twitter, so I am afraid I have just stopped following. Too much work finding the grains among the straw. It will be great for setting up meats without telling the whole world, however. But the rest just seems what would have been on twitter. And I know it is mean, but I would really like the option to mute some people. So I will be checking once a day for messages and mentions, then once a week and in a while I will stop looking, as nobody has a reason to mention an absence.
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