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remotevoices
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I have all the Stephenson's prior to Dodo. And I really liked Anathem, though I think he hit his peak with the Baroque circle. I think I gave away his collaborations with his uncle, but I have the rest, a big pile of dead wood.

 

No updates on reading. Got hooked on Stellaris and only read a few pages the week-end. And they were om a from a French book, Matador Yankee, which I doubt will be translated to English.

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I finished off the Ann Leckie Imperial Radch trilogy finally.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancillary_Justice

 

The thrid book was a strong finish that wrapped up the major storylines.  I also felt like Leckie got more comfortable with the ungendered format finally, ceasing to make it into a plot point and just referring to all of the characters as if their gender wasn't a factor, which left more time to focus on the other aspects of the story.  Similar in some ways to the Murderbot series, the protagonist-narrator being non-human for example, this series could get a little too wrapped up in the social protocols of the fictional universe that they are set in.  It obviously owes something to Ursula K Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness but doesn't really achieve that level of investment in the outcome.  Still a good read!  

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How to Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone — Very weird but reasonably entertaining little book written between two enemy agents who gradually form a relationship via letters written to each other up and down the timeline as they attempt to sway all the time threads to end in their version of reality (one biological, one more mechanical). Worth a library checkout at least.

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20 minutes ago, Wanderer said:

Dude, I probably wouldn't even have had the courage to ask that person if he was or not, so don't feel too bad! (I'm horrible at approaching strangers)

 

Haha. I mean, he lives around here, so...

 

It was at Microsoft, too. I was a panelist MSFT had assembled of end users with disabilities. So, like, IDK... I seems tangentially like somewhere you might see him? (I think he is even doing something with MSFT lately?) Not-Stephenson was one of the audience members (there were a few dozen: fairly small/low-key thing).

 

I don't think I would have been able to work up the courage if, like, it was him ordering a coffee at a cafe or whatever.

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3 hours ago, heavyboots said:

How to Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone — Very weird but reasonably entertaining little book written between two enemy agents who gradually form a relationship via letters written to each other up and down the timeline as they attempt to sway all the time threads to end in their version of reality (one biological, one more mechanical). Worth a library checkout at least.

 

To be fair, it is joint written with Amal El-Mohtar. Amal lives in Canada, but spent a number of years in Glasgow, where she was a member of the Glasgow SF Writers Circle (which I am also a member of). My understanding is that they each wrote one side of the correspondence. The pair of them did a number of promotional dates round America, and Amal is back here next month to promote it (no doubt coinciding with a trip to the Worldcon in Dublin, where a load of the GSFWC will be)

 

I just finished the third Expanse book. Always interesting to see how it balances off the TV series. I've watched half way through series 3, ducking out to catch up on the book before the TV got too far ahead. Remains enjoyable, and the book obviously has more depth and texture to the story, even if they don't quite 100% match up

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7 hours ago, remotevoices said:

To be fair, it is joint written with Amal El-Mohtar.

 

D'oh! The Pima County Library has ingeniously slapped their bar code on the book such that it is covering up 90% of her name. Also, the cover art guys chose a dark green for her name (on a pale green background) and a bright orange for his, so I didn't even notice there was text under the bar code. Apologies for that—definitely wasn't trying to cheat credit where credit is due.

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19 hours ago, heavyboots said:

 

D'oh! The Pima County Library has ingeniously slapped their bar code on the book such that it is covering up 90% of her name. Also, the cover art guys chose a dark green for her name (on a pale green background) and a bright orange for his, so I didn't even notice there was text under the bar code. Apologies for that—definitely wasn't trying to cheat credit where credit is due.

 

oh, no worries. i'd have been surprised if there had been any ill intent, though conscious on some level he is the "name" author that people will know. and it would have been remiss of me not to point amal's role out, not least as i expect to be sitting in the pub with her at some point in the next month.

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  • 1 month later...

Children of Ruin by Adrian Tschaikovsky — Second in this series, this time we visit a planet where octopi, so BEEEEEAK! 😹 Quite good once it gets going, and some interesting ideas about how uplift might work in a creature that's very smart but very wilful already.

 

Agency by William Gibson — Thanks to having placed an Abebooks "watch" on this, I scored an ARC for cheap and just finished it yesterday. Really, really great! Was hooked pretty much from page one on and enjoyed it thoroughly all the way through to the end. Acknowledgements TK still, so I don't know what he was gonna say about Arkan yet. 😛

 

But at any rate, it definitely lived up to expectations and I have some interesting thoughts one where this might expand into a trilogy? 🤔 Will be interested to see the discussion of that once more people have had a chance to read it.

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Huh, looks as though I didn't post about The Poppy War here, though I did on the other forum I post reading comments on. OK. The Poppy War by R.F. (Rebecca) Kuang. It got something of a buzz, but I was put off by a few comments. I caught her speaking at the Edinburgh SF/F/H book festival Cymera, and she came across pretty well. So I gave it a go. It is a mixed bag, the first half I enjoyed, the second less so. The first is her in school - having worked out she can avoid being married off by her adoptive parents by passing the tests that get her into military academy. Second half is war breaking out and things getting nasty. There is magic, though honestly not enough for my liking. The war stuff is problematic, many of her choices are problematic, some of it is hard reading. But I caught her again after I finished reading, promoting the second book, and it was interesting to hear her talking in a way that validated my impressions. The war stuff isn't supposed to be easy, she isn't supposed to be a hero who knows what she is doing, so the horror and bad choices are very deliberate. Also interesting how she talks about it being her study of trying to understand how China became the country it is now, through writing fantasy novels exploring history/politics clearly influenced by Chinese history.

 

The Rise and Fall of DODO  - Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland - Bought this a while ago, on kindle, because Neal's books are just too damn big for paper. Heard some good stuff about it, got some good recommendations, bumped it up my reading list. Had intended it to be holiday reading in August, but Poppy War took longer than I expected. So it was late on in the holiday by time I started, but even though it is about 800 pages I pretty much ripped through it. A language expert is recruited from a failing university position by a secret government agency, as she translates the documents in obscure languages she realises they are all about witches and witchcraft. From which they piece together that magic stopped working in 1851 due to a number of scientific developments. With a Schrodinger like experiment they discover they can recreate magic, though only in the box. Which leads to a witch turning up to help them out, and to a series of complicated (Stephensonesque) time travel adventures. Things expand and get out of hand, allies are made, secret plots are plotted, and things get complicated. The narrative is largely from the academics journal, but as it progresses there are letters, intranet posts, and the like, introducing different POVs and time views. I found it to be well done and a lot of fun, presuming Galland's influence managed to temper some of Stephenson's historic excess.

 

The Murders of Molly Southbourne - Tade Thompson - I had kinda been avoiding this, generally avoiding violence/war at the moment, life is hard enough! But having enjoyed the two Rosewater books I decided to take a punt on this novella, and there is more to it than the cover/first few pages suggest. Fortunately. Molly wakes up in chains, beaten and bloody and confused. Molly comes in to see how Molly is doing, bearing her own wounds and injuries, but not in chains. Eventually Molly sits down and tells Molly the story of Molly and her many deaths. Every time Molly bleeds a new Molly will form, each will be fine to start with, but without fail will become murderous. To a degree this was fine when Molly was young, home schooled on her parent's farm. But as she got older it is was more of a rollercoaster and she had to make a life for herself, and perhaps find out who she is. It is decent little page turner, a novella so quick, but also feels like an incomplete set up in someway. Which of course is partly accounted for by The Survival of Molly Southbourne, a second novella, which has recently been published - I've got it on my kindle already, so I'll likely get to it soon.

 

Permafrost - Alastair Reynolds - another novella. The world is catastrophically fucked. An old woman, working as a teacher in one of the dead end of dead end towns finds herself recruited by the agency who are currently effectively running the world. Partly because her mother was a famous mathematician who did work on what might prove to provide a form of time travel. The possibilities are limited, they can only travel to a period where certain devices existed and only while they were running, and more that they can pilot a person who is there than go themselves. But if they can do that, then maybe they can change the barest thing that won't change the world, but might just provide enough hope that the entire population won't just die out. An odd little piece, feels quite atypical as far as time travel pieces go, from the technology, the AI presence, the Russian background of the characters/story.

 

Amnesiascope - Steve Erickson - as opposed to Steven Erikson, which isn't confusing at all. I've read one of Steve's books before, though can't remember which. Think it was here that someone recommended him way back? He writes odd works, kind of contemporary, not hard genre, but slipping into genre peripherals. This piece is kind of a hysterical dialogue of the end of the world - I use hysterical, as that is the word the narrator uses to describe a type of cinema her reviews for the newspaper. After an earthquake LA is permanently on fire, has broken into sub-time-zones, and has a similar weird detached end times feel to the likes of Dhalgren or Black Wave. Which is something I appreciate, but to a degree becomes hard to pin down plot, and you just have to ride it out. The narrator is a novelist, makes a living from writing film reviews, his girlfriend is an artist, he writes the script for her erotic film, they kidnap strippers, a film he made up in a review starts to stalk him. Odd stuff happens and it all flows in an uncertain way. Not for everyone...

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8 hours ago, s.smigiel said:

 

Well it was only 800 pages.

 

there is that. but also the indulgent repetition was... reduced, if not absent.

 

Meantime.

Magic For Liars - Sarah Gailey - this is Gailey's debut novel, after a couple of Hippo Western novellas, and various short stories. It is a bit of a mixed bag, genre wise (but then, it isn't like one could describe Hippo Western as an obvious genre choice...). Magic is real, and Ivy isn't magic, but her twin sister is. Add to that the death of their mum through cancer, and the last 17 years have been a fucking mess. Still, she just about manages to make a living as a PI, with the same old same of cheating spouses and minor fraud. Until the headmistress from the local school of magic turns up - there has been a murder! Of course, the school is also where her sister teaches. So on the one hand this is a detective novel; there is a body, suspects, interviews, clues, and all that. But also a magic school novel, for all that Ivy tries to remain blase, to assume a role, the bratty kids are committing magic all around her, wasting it on the most mundane shit, then there are the talking books, and a Chosen One. Though, at the heart, despite the wonder, it is about a fucked up woman, in a fucked up situation, who is forced to face the extent of the fucked uppery. Very much an easy read, I think it was in some ways deceptively easy reading, given how much it is pulling off and just how audacious that process is in the end.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm currently reading Richard Morgan's Thin Air. 

 

I'm still in the first 100 pages, but it's kind of hilarious how similar the concept is to Altered Carbon. A down-on-his-luck former security agent, who's former job involved being kept in hibernation until an issue arose, is now working as some kind of bad-ass for hire. Yeah, I think I've heard this one before Richard... ;) So far it's pretty good though. I certainly like it better than the one about corporate stooges racing cars to get anything done. 

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^ Yes, to a certain degree if you've read one Richard Morgan book you've read them all. It was still pretty enjoyable though. Fits in somewhere between Thirteen and Altered Carbon, basically.

 

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers — This is a very short little novella that's basically an homage to science and space exploration. It's more of a character study of scientists in some ways, I guess, than anything else. Plus dreams of what life on planets orbiting other stars might be like. It was enjoyable enough, but not as good as her last two, although I think I liked it better than her first (Small Angry Planet), which I am somewhat inexplicably not a huge fan of.

 

The Outside by Ada Hoffman — Very, very strange little science fiction/horror cross-over. I kept being reminded of Into The Mouth of Madness while reading it. Sometime in our future, quantum computers come online and leverage themselves (or some augmented human?) to godhood, so now when you worship gods, you're literally worshiping a being that exists. And as gods, they each have their contingent of angels and their worshipers and their share of the harvest of human souls. It's all very strange and gets even more so when a "heretic" somehow manages to access something called The Outside, which is some other dimension that doesn't obey our rules and tends to drive anyone who starts messing with it mad. Only this heretic proves to be immune and starts experimenting with letting The Outside take over swaths of our reality. Holy war and hijinks ensue with a young particle physicist caught in the middle of the conflict. I'd say that on the whole I ended up enjoying this as it managed to wrap things up in a fairly consistent manner and had interesting enough characters to keep you rooting for them.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Gods, Monsters & The Lucky Peach - Kelly Robson - Another tor novella, another time travel piece. Set in post-environmental collapse, folks have gone underground, some have come back up and are trying to rebuild. Rebuilding is slow and painful, but progress gets derailed with the discovery of a form of time travel. A multi-limbed old woman of the rebuild generation, gets offered a gig to go back in time and study important river with task of recreating. She is joined by young sidekick, and we get the whole generational differences, experience and desperation and entitlement and drive that go with that. This was much more pleasing that I feared given base idea, perhaps niche but I really enjoyed all the environmental/economic stuff, that was great. The time travel stuff less so, though it was largely handled in a way that was complimentary. The end, sadly was frustrating, and oddly anti-climactic. So, I enjoyed reading, disliked end.

 

The Last Supper Before Ragnarok - Cassandra Khaw - This is an odd series, down to the idea of ownership, which I have seen Khaw talk about in the past. The Gods And Monsters series is a publisher owned series of novellas - each writer created a character and the publisher then owns that character having paid the writer off. Very much an old school comic book model, the publisher being part of that school of thought. This is Khaw's third novel with her chef Rupert Wong. But oddly, this is the culmination, I understand, of the Gods And Monsters series, so she takes the characters from two other writers, and brings the set together in an end of the world scenario where only these characters can save the world. I think there are a few new characters, who act as instigators, and not having read the other books it was hard to say what I was missing. At the start of the story, I definitely felt I was missing something, but I was actually OK with that. A group of people from different backgrounds, different abilities go on a road trip of America, exploring the ideas of old gods and new gods, with a hat tip consciously made to American Gods at once. It is an odd book, a lot more eating and drinking and sarcasm than one might expect, but probably to be expected when your narrator is an ex-cannibal chef, weird immortal demon touched, ex-gangster. I enjoyed.

 

The Curses - Laure Eve - Sequel to The Graces. The Graces was a YA book I picked up at random - not sure it was expressly sold as YA, pretty sure I picked it up off the general promo tables in Waterstones, but definitely that is where you will find the two of them now. The Graces was published in 2016, so following up with the promised sequel 3 years later isn't industry standard (though, knocking them out every couple of months might not be a preferred/sustainable model...) The Graces are a family of notorious witches that live in a small town, with this generation there are three teenagers - attractive, popular, influential, cursed. A stranger comes to town, she desperately wants to be friends with Summer Grace who is in her class, to date Summer's older brother. The girl recreates herself, names herself River, and she becomes a witch too, things are good, then they are not, and bad things happen. With The Curses, time has passed (though in terms of months, rather than years like publication). The Graces have been removed from school and are trying to move on from what happened. This book switches POV, from River in book 1, to Summer in book 2, so we follow Summer in a new school, then getting expelled. The Graces returning to their old school to find that River has somewhat taken on their role. But the result seems to be a ripple of increasingly dark curses, and maybe the resolution of the first book wasn't the solution they thought it was. The POV threw me a little, as did how much it has been since I read the original. Once into it and as events started to fall into place I enjoyed it more. Not sure I enjoyed as much as Graces, but I'm certainly in a different place from reading first book, so that is definite a factor.

 

Dark Arts And A Daiquiri - Annette Marie - I've got a few books on the go, some harder more demanding books, and unfortunately my brain is struggling between work and the collapse of all we hold sacred. So I consciously switched from some of those other books, which I am still reading, slowly, and went for something lighter. Book 2 of book I recently posted about - continuing adventures of Tori, who is a basic human, working in a secret guild where everyone has magic abilities. The ongoing distinction between humans and magic people as not humans is always a thing that annoys me always. Between start of first book and course of this one the time period is weeks, Tori is enjoying her job and keeps maybe dating one of her extraordinarily handsome and rugged new friends. Those new friends act as bounty hunters, tracking down and stopping magic bad guys for the magic secret police. Here there is a missing girl and they recruit Tori as bait to help track down the super elusive bad guy they suspect has taken the girl. Which of course lead to Tori being abducted and her friends being unable to rescue her, but things aren't as they seem, and oh,boy,isn't the bad guy super swoony! I enjoyed again, starts nicely with continuity from book 1, twists it so that this isn't more of the same, continues good world building, keeps it sassy and fun, even when it gets dark and explosive. Exactly what I was after.

 

The Ten Thousand Doors of January - Alix E Harrow - surprisingly not been able to find this in the shops, which given it is a new release from Orbit seems really weird. I ended up splashing out on full price kindle book, and might end up buying physical book anyway. Harrow's "A Witch's Guide To Escape" was one of my favourite stories of last year, and I imagine folk will not be surprised to hear it was very much up my street (read it here: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witchs-guide-to-escape-a-practical-compendium-of-portal-fantasies/). This is Harrow's debut novel, and lives up to her full potential, it is great, I loved it. January is an in-between girl, skin a funny colour, not really definable, but thanks to her mentor/step-father she lives in a world of privilege. Her father travels the world discovering (and stealing) the most fantastic artifacts and sending them back to Mr. Locke. Mr. Locke takes care of January and tries to shape her into being a good girl, which isn't always easy given her fascination with pulp fiction and penny dreadful type adventures. But when she discovers a doorway to another world, something inside her changes, despite Mr. Locke's persistent attempts to forcefully keep here respectable. As the novel builds, January finds a book, a book about Doors and other worlds, and the story becomes a book with a book, alternating story and book chapters. Which reminded me of Will Do Magic For Small Change, another book I really enjoyed recently. There are plot points that fall into place for the reader, but not for the characters, which sometimes can be frustrating, here I felt Harrow handles them perfectly. So instead of being frustrated, there is a joy as pieces you have seen coming fall into place at just the right moment. If pushed I would perhaps admit a few little niggles, but you'd have to push me. This book was a joy, I had to stop myself rushing through it, slow myself to read it at a pace where I could appreciate each new chapter. I finished this morning and there is always a thing with a book like this as you watch the pages vanish: will the end satisfy, will it land 100%, will this book pull it off? Yes.

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Been diving into a new fighting style - I hate to call it 'fencing' as it's a more... utilitarian style and originated around the 1350''s or so. Going through the manual, one play at a time, figuring out some drill designs so I can teach it:

Iberian Swordplay - Domingo Luis Godinho's Art of Fencing.

Also tore through some stuff on Kindle, particularly the Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Ubik by PKD, the 5th Gender by Gail Carriger, and the Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (which *has* to be a pseudonym). 

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Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape

 

When I started posting on this board in my late twenties (fucking hell, seriously?) if you had told me that this would be what I was reading at 44 years of age I would have thought you were insane.  

 

But, yet here I am. Learning what THOT means, and other stuff (turns out, ass-to-mouth means something completely different than what I thought it meant).  I am not through it yet, but so far it is interesting if a bit unorganized.  The premise is to help decrepit old fucks like me understand the complex sexual landscape (this is the kind of language the book is full of) that teen girls in the age of instagram, snapchat, and 24-hour online porn have to deal with now.  I wouldn't say I am enjoying the book, as it forces you to confront the idea that your precious offspring is about to jump into a world populated by people that might have been you 30 years ago. But some of the ideas are encouraging, such as the concept that many things (like THOTs) aren't good or bad, but instead can be both good and bad at the same time.

 

One thing I have noticed before and it seems to be cropping up here a lot as well is the idea that women and girls can't really win when it comes to their sexual reputation, you're either a prude or a slut.  There is no middle ground.  I'm not sure this is really something new, surely a lot of my contemporaries who don't share their sexual lives online talk about former partners in the same terms. But the intensely intimate aspect of social media can make it seem like everybody must have an opinion of you and if they all aren't happy then you have somehow failed the slut test.

 

I don't know what is right, but if this helps me talk my kid down after the first boy (the lesbian ship has sailed with this one I think) breaks her heart then it is worth the effort.

 

 

 

 

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I'm glad you're back, IC.

 

I am always pretty open with her about sex. It is hard to hear that a boy on the bus called her a slut and a ho last week.  She googled 'ho' because she didn't know it and then texted her mom to ask why he was calling her a gardening tool...

 

Then she called him a jackass and reported him to the school and he got in trouble :) But I don't want her to learn about sex from misogynistic shitbags on the bus.

 

I am not one of those weird guys that expects his daughter to be pure and chaste forever, I mean I started talking to her mom in large part because she wasn't either those things.  I don't know what she is going to want as she gets older but I want her to be prepared to communicate what she wants to the people she is with at that time. I am not sure if that makes sense, but I'm just trying not to fuck this up too badly.

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