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February 27, 2021
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08 Feb 2021 13:24 #318981 by Nodens
Thanks everyone for talking about the New Sun books, am about to start the third one. Immensely dense language, very satisfying to read when I have the energy.
In a double feature, I just finished William Gibson's Agency and Cory Doctorow's Walkaway. Both very strong and about stuff that's important RIGHT NOW, like AI. Gibson does his schtick where he invents words we should have been using for years left and right as if it was nothing while treating us to a thriller plot with likeable nerds employed by super rich people. Worth for the speed of the dialogue alone.
Doctorow is on the more practical side here (naturally) with a great utopia of how we could be living, warts and all. Anyone who ever agreed with a non-US freedom/left person (no offense intended) might have heard some of the discussions before, but the result works very well. Wouldn't mind for that thing to become some sort of bible in campus housing.
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08 Feb 2021 13:50 #318986 by DarthJoJo
Heretics of Dune feels like a throwback to the original. It’s taken several millennia, but we’re finally past the direct Atreides line and its ponderous grip on the course of human growth and development. Now a young man with preternatural mental abilities is once again on the run with the Bene Gesserit from betrayal. My favorite character since Stilgar appears in this novel. Tuek is high priest on Arrakis and wrestles with doubt in a changing world in a real way unlike the ‘dare I shake the universe’ presumption of every other character.

Apparently Herbert discovered sex since writing God Emperor of Dune. Unfortunately he learned about it from a high school anatomy textbook. There are some amazing passages where a Bene Gesserit is donning a disguise as a playfem (a super awesome prostitute) but knows too much to be a mere fifth-level adept. “I can control genital temperature. I know and can arouse the fifty-one excitation points. I-“ “Fifty-one? But there are only-“ “Fifty-one! Furthermore, in combination with the two hundred and five sexual positions-“ “Two hundred and five? Surely, you don’t mean-“ “More actually if you count minor variations.” And that doesn’t count the amazing scene where the woman so good at sex she turns everyone who sleeps with her into a stunned slave is overcome by the abilities of Duncan Idaho. Their joining ends with her flopping on the floor in pleasure but still trying to kill him because he’s too good at sex.

I think I’ve said this after every book since Dune Messiah, but I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed my time in Herbert’s world. The prose is atrocious and Herbert’s ideas aren’t as interesting as he thinks they are. But there’s really nothing like it in scope or ambition, so I trundle on. Just one left.

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08 Feb 2021 23:08 #319010 by dysjunct
Oh come on, I scored 51 excitation points in my last Feld game.
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08 Feb 2021 23:16 #319012 by jason10mm

DarthJoJo wrote: [.

I think I’ve said this after every book since Dune Messiah, but I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed my time in Herbert’s world. The prose is atrocious and Herbert’s ideas aren’t as interesting as he thinks they are. But there’s really nothing like it in scope or ambition, so I trundle on. Just one left.


To be honest if i hadn't seen Lynch's film first and had that ASTOUNDING musical score permanently seared into my brain such that every scene in the book has it playing in my head i dont think i would have enjoyed the books nearly so much either.

Kinda like Conan and the Arnie film, now that i think about it...
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09 Feb 2021 11:26 #319026 by Shellhead
I was finished with the Dune series after the third book, but one of my friends kept going. He said that one of the later books should have been called Duncan Idaho: Sex God of Dune. Sounds like that was God Emperor of Dune.
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09 Feb 2021 23:04 #319057 by DarthJoJo
I don’t think I’m going to read it through because it’s too much of a downer, but I’d like to give Allie Brosh’s Solutions and Other Problems a shout. It’s her follow-up to Hyperbole and a Half, a collection of essays from her blog of the same title. I loved Hyperbole. It’s one of three or four things that have made me laugh so hard reading them that I couldn’t keep my eyes open for the tears, and that still happens when I return to her story of getting lost in the woods with her mom and sister or trying to convince her mom to let her go to a birthday party immediately after dental surgery.

It’s been real rough for Ms. Brosh since that book, unfortunately, and she doesn’t shy away from it in Solutions. It’s not that she’s bad at writing the hard stuff. Her essays on depression in Hyperbole were profound. I think the difference here is that it feels like she’s trying to be profound and meaningful rather than trusting her personal experience to carry and touch us. Her writing about a fight with her husband and her sister’s best friend still made me laugh hard though.

So, maybe, check out Solutions if you want to be sad and look out into the middle distance with a cold coffee in one hand and the stub of a cigarette in the other, and check out Hyperbole if you need a laugh.

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10 Feb 2021 16:49 #319084 by CranBerries

Nodens wrote: Thanks everyone for talking about the New Sun books, am about to start the third one. Immensely dense language, very satisfying to read when I have the energy.
In a double feature, I just finished William Gibson's Agency and Cory Doctorow's Walkaway. Both very strong and about stuff that's important RIGHT NOW, like AI. Gibson does his schtick where he invents words we should have been using for years left and right as if it was nothing while treating us to a thriller plot with likeable nerds employed by super rich people. Worth for the speed of the dialogue alone.
Doctorow is on the more practical side here (naturally) with a great utopia of how we could be living, warts and all. Anyone who ever agreed with a non-US freedom/left person (no offense intended) might have heard some of the discussions before, but the result works very well. Wouldn't mind for that thing to become some sort of bible in campus housing.


We have very similar tastes in science fiction. I need to reread Book of the New Sun and catch all the stuff I missed the first time. I always enjoy Gibson, and Agency was a pleasure to read, but after a while you start to recognize his moves in advance.
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23 Feb 2021 06:44 #319496 by mezike
Ever since the winter set in I've struggled to lose myself into any fiction, picking up and putting down several books after only a few pages. I figure that reality currently feels so surreal that I just can't relax into escapism in my downtime. I dropped out midway through Herbert Snr's final Dune book as I realised I was only still reading the series just to get to the end of it. The writing becomes increasing plodding and the morals so juvenile that it's not worth persevering through the weeds even though the plot as a whole is impressively grand (I cheated by watching some overviews to see how it all turns out in the end). Still looking forward to Villeneuve's movie though.

I have instead been re-reading Tom Holland's (no, not that one) excellent books covering classical history Persian Fire and Rubicon, Michio Kaku's books on M-theory and parallel dimensions (pick any one of them, he has a habit of repeating himself), and Alan Bennett's diaries (which I cannot help but read with his distinctive voice in mind and which means that my inner monologue is now stuck on "Droll Yorkshireman")

Moving now onto biographies, I'm about halfway through Julian Rubinstein's Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, a biography of real-life modern-day Hungarian folk hero Attila Ambrus. During the 90's there were a spate of bank robberies in post-communist Budapest by an elusive figure who was known for three things; he was unerringly polite and considerate, he was incredibly athletic and agile, and he was stinking drunk. Like all the best true stories, the background behind the tale is so bizarre as to almost defy belief. Rubinstein's writing has a pleasant journalistic flow to it, although he does ladle on the 'bleak post-communism' trope a little thick. He also doesn't quite capture the full extent of what Ambrus' escapades meant to the general public - he was seen a figure that was railing against the excesses of apparatchik greed as they carved up the new capitalist world revealed by the dropping of the Iron Curtain, a wonky Robin Hood who took from the rich and humiliated authority figures even if he didn't exactly give it back to the poor. An entertaining read all the same.
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23 Feb 2021 10:22 - 23 Feb 2021 10:22 #319500 by Gary Sax
My wife and I have listened to a lot of nature non-fiction.

Entangled Life is a somewhat disorganized book about fungus that will reshape how you think about the world and its ecosystems. In particular, how cooperation and symbiosis is everywhere and makes up everything.
Last edit: 23 Feb 2021 10:22 by Gary Sax.
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23 Feb 2021 14:12 #319521 by RobertB
A little late in the game for me and my daughter, I'm reading Pedigree. How do the most prestigious firms pick their new hires? The short answer, "pick the Ivy League graduate that the interviewers like best." The long answer I'm still gathering because I'm still reading the book.
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23 Feb 2021 20:13 #319550 by DarthJoJo
J.F. Powers’ The Wheat That Springeth Green. I decided to treat myself to a reread of something I enjoy immensely before diving into the end of Frank Herbert’s Dune saga and switched adventures atop giant sandworms and societies of women who enthralled men by way of sex for parish priests in suburban Minnesota in the mid-20th century. It’s so very, very good. Just a few hundred pages of character study of a priest who may be just a little too worldly. The prose isn’t Raymond Carver/Gordon Lish sparse, but I don’t think you could strike a single word from this novel without wrecking it.

It also the classic and always applicable conversation:
“What’s the score?” Bill asked.
“Four to one.”
“Twins?”
“No.”

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24 Feb 2021 09:00 - 24 Feb 2021 09:04 #319578 by CranBerries
I recently listened to Alternate Routes by Tim Power using the Overdrvie library app. I thoroughly enjoyed it, because I'm a huge fan. It wasn't quite as good as some of his best stuff. Declare, a cold war supernatural thriller was excellent, and he has a three book series about Las Vegas and a battle for control of the supernatural world that, like Declare, weaves in amazing historical details. Alternate Routes is L.A. supernatural noir. A secret service agent hears something he shouldn't while on duty, something coming over a static-filled radio broadcasting from the other side, and is taken to the desert to be executed by the SECRET secret service. Hijinks ensue. Instead of historical events like the fact that Kim Philby kept a pet fox and was inconsolably drunk after it died, in this book he incorporates Dryden's translation of Ovid, or parts of it, and I'll leave it at that. I honestly didn't fully understand the mythos in this one, in part because I was driving as I listened, but still liked it.

I bought a new Kindle to help me get rid of my book collection, which has reached about 900 volumes. I'll try to keep the stuff that gives me joy, or at least dopamine, but I recently read a short snippet from someone who lives with hoarders and it has stayed with me: "You bring home one or two things so you can feel good for a day or two, and then ruin the lives of the people around you."

“Every thinking human is a turbulent little pocket of supernatural freedom-from-causality, working against the constant resistance of an otherwise mathematically determinist world.”
--Tim Powers, Alternate Routes

Tim powers is almost 70, so I don't know how many more books we'll get out of him before he takes that invisible exit off the 405.
Last edit: 24 Feb 2021 09:04 by CranBerries.
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24 Feb 2021 16:26 #319633 by ThirstyMan
Declare is absolutely on my top ten books of all time. Amazing imagination wrapped into historical events. The scenes around Mt Ararat are amazing and even Kuwait gets a mention ! Also genuinely scary with a good dose of Lovecraftian mythos.

I will have to try Alternate Routes

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24 Feb 2021 17:49 - 24 Feb 2021 17:49 #319646 by Not Sure
Alternate Routes is okay, but a lot of it reminded me of Expiration Date, which I much prefer.

There's a sequel to it (Forced Perspectives) that I haven't read yet as well.

I'm currently reading China Mieville's take on the Russian Revolution, October. After flying through a bunch of stuff to hit my 2020 reading target, and starting 2021 off pretty quickly, October has been slow going.
Last edit: 24 Feb 2021 17:49 by Not Sure.

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26 Feb 2021 11:11 #319793 by SebastianBludd
Last year I started The Black Company series and recently finished it. It was very good, even though it dragged at times, and I really enjoyed the delightfully weird fantasy mythos Cook created. I also liked how magic and other supernatural elements were rarely fully explained, and how wizards/practitioners (the lower level ones, anyway) were treated more like specialized technicians rather than demigods. The series took an unexpectedly elegiac turn in the last few books but it was a satisfying payoff and it reinforced themes that were percolating from the earliest books.

I've also been reading the third trilogy of Charles Stross' Merchant Prince series. I finished book eight recently and the ninth is due later this year. It's about a clan of people who have the genetic ability to "world walk" between parallel universes, and when the series starts they've been world walking to and from our universe for financial gain for quite some time.

Stross really gets to show off what he knows about tradecraft and government bureaucracies, which is quite a bit, and the directions he takes things in the third trilogy are depressingly dystopian by virtue of their plausibility. The second trilogy has a fantastic ending, and the third trilogy picks up 17 years later and hits the ground running; doubling down on exploring the political implications of what two parallel, yet divergent, societies might do in the midst of first contact across dimensions.
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