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Bugs: Recent Topics Paging, Uploading Images & Preview (11 Dec 2020)

Recent Topics paging, uploading images and preview bugs require a patch which has not yet been released.

What books are you reading?

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11 Sep 2020 11:18 #313997 by jeb
Replied by jeb on topic What books are you reading?
M&C nuts, please read MOBY-DICK! It's amazing. Just power through, it is so beautifully written and funny and queer and wonderful. One thing to keep in mind as you read it is that the narrator (Ishmael) is basically Cliff Clavin from Cheers. He's not as smart as he thinks he is, but that doesn't slow him down. You're going to hear all about it. Just imagine a ship on the seas that drops three 15' rowboats and the guys on those ride up on a whale and kill it with sharp sticks. It's fucking nuts!! Here's a passage as they wait for a whale to resurface:

The long-drawn virgin vales; the mild blue hill-sides; as over these there steals a hush, the hum; you almost swear that play-wearied children lie sleeping in these solitudes, in some glad May-time, when the flowers of the woods are plucked. And all this mixes with your most mystic mood; so that fact and fancy, halfway-meeting, interpenetrate, and form one seamless whole.


Meanwhile, I'm re-reading The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. A happy little yarn for folks raised on Discover magazine. Neal's writing can be annoying (speaking of Cliff Clavin), but he's a little more reigned in here and allows action to drive scenes of people talking instead of just writing paragraphs about how guns or swords work.

I've also read Robinson's WHY YOU SHOULD BE A SOCIALIST (you should), bits of Feynman's SIX EASY PIECES, and started Wilson's translation of THE ODYSSEY.
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11 Sep 2020 14:41 #314002 by RobertB
Replied by RobertB on topic What books are you reading?

jeb wrote: I've also read Robinson's WHY YOU SHOULD BE A SOCIALIST (you should), bits of Feynman's SIX EASY PIECES, and started Wilson's translation of THE ODYSSEY.


I have Fagles' translation of The Odyssey, and it's good.

Which leads me to yet another pitch for Herodotus' Histories. Yet another story from it: after the naval battle at Salamis, the captains were asked to vote on who was the battle's MVP. It ended up a 300-way tie for first place, and Themistocles unanimous for second.
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11 Sep 2020 16:47 #314004 by Not Sure

jeb wrote: Meanwhile, I'm re-reading The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. A happy little yarn for folks raised on Discover magazine. Neal's writing can be annoying (speaking of Cliff Clavin), but he's a little more reigned in here and allows action to drive scenes of people talking instead of just writing paragraphs about how guns or swords work.


I did that re-read earlier this quarantine. I had remembered the second volume as being weakish, but on re-read I found it the most enjoyable. The initial pipe-laying in the first volume was pretty damn tedious, but when he got past that and started letting his dominoes fall it got better.

I'm halfway through his most recent "Fall; or, Dodge in Hell" and I'm glad I did that BC re-read. No solid opinions on Fall yet.

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12 Sep 2020 00:14 #314019 by jason10mm
The last couple Stephenson novels I've read (Reamde and Seveneves) were 50% brilliant and 50% wiki info dumps that were really tedious. The Baroque cycle was similar but after the first novel it moved along nicely. I fear NS is becoming editor proof and heading down the Tom Clancy and George Martin well of over elaborate slogfest novels.

I'm still working through Sandersons 3rd Stormlight novel and it is verbose but action oriented enough to be entertaining.

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12 Sep 2020 00:50 #314020 by RobertB
Replied by RobertB on topic What books are you reading?
I thought Reamde was pretty good, and moved pretty quickly for a Stephenson book. Seveneves was a flabby book with about 2/3 of another flabby book glued onto the end.

I read somewhere that Heinlein and his wife took some insane amount of effort (days, a week, something like that) to get some calculation right that ended up being just a number in his book. Maybe he wanted to keep his math fresh, whatever. Stephenson will go through the same effort for that same sort of number in a book, but then Show His Work. Normally I like that sort of thing (I did buy a Stephenson book), but there is a limit.

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12 Sep 2020 09:16 #314023 by Shellhead
Snow Crash was fun. The Diamond Age was good, but felt like it could have easily been written by William Gibson or Bruce Sterling. Cryptonomicon was work to get through, and I don't remember most of it. I struggled to get into Quicksilver and finally gave up on it and on Stephenson. He has his style and he has his fanbase, but I don't have time for his sloppy ramblings anymore.
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25 Sep 2020 19:58 - 25 Sep 2020 19:58 #314571 by Not Sure
If you dig back in this thread (and the old one before this) I have a complicated relationship with Stephenson. There are some of his books I like, a lot more that I ought to like but sort of don't, and a couple that I thought weren't very good.

There are times (somewhere around Anathem/Reamde) when I was pretty much hate-reading the books. Seveneves I actually liked more than most, because a few pages of digression on orbital mechanics is actually why I like Stephenson. His topics are generally interesting to me. His flat characters and idiot-ball coincidence plotting and jumpcut endings not so much.

Baroque Cycle was much improved on re-read (and 15 years of distance), and I was surprised that I had very different opinions on where the good parts of that epic were now.

And then we get to "Fall", which sucked. This is the first book of his where I felt like it was really just a gigantic waste of time. There was some extremely good setup in the second quarter of the book around online persona, internet filtering, and "truth". But it was treated shabbily, and then completely thrown away. From there out, the book degenerates into basically CS Lewis for the techbro. If you think Stephenson is bad SF writer (and I don't), imagine him trying to pull off fantasy allegory.

Usually the book veers off the cliff right near the end, but you had a good ride. This time, it basically ejects before you hit the halfway mark and you still have 400 pages to go! I was reading this slog, thinking back to the bizarre shadow Internet and Ameristan stuff, and saying "fuck, he wrote the wrong book".

I'm not expecting to change anyone's mind about his other books, feel free to follow your heart there. But even if you do like Stephenson, I'd still say avoid this one. (Jeb, save yourself!)
Last edit: 25 Sep 2020 19:58 by Not Sure.
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26 Sep 2020 01:09 #314573 by RobertB
Replied by RobertB on topic What books are you reading?
From the reviews I read, you aren't the only one to think Fall sucked.

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26 Sep 2020 02:19 - 26 Sep 2020 02:20 #314574 by ThirstyMan
I often use Stephenson's weirdo tales about the private life of Newton in my teaching to keep Year 9 (Grade 8, I think) amused in Physics lessons.

I take his little sidetracks on Newton's life as fact, even if they aren't.

Serves to keep interest and how would Year 9 know if these stories are fact or fiction?

I barely do.
Last edit: 26 Sep 2020 02:20 by ThirstyMan.
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10 Oct 2020 11:08 #314968 by DarthJoJo
With the caveat that it wouldn’t and couldn’t exist without the preceding two books, Children of Dune is better than Dune. The pacing is better, the characters are better and I think it’s the better implementation of the themes Herbert is most interested in. Herbert has simply improved as a writer and tamped down on his worst impulses of explaining every character’s motivation immediately and at length. He even redeemed one of the worst final lines in literature.

The Baron is the laziest villain ever, though. His plan basically amounts to kill some people and have lots of sex, and everyone who matters pretty much immediately knows what’s going on. Which turns out to be fine for him because he wants everyone to hate Alia and crack the family.
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10 Oct 2020 15:00 #314977 by Cranberries
I'm reading a book by uncertified psychoanalyst and poet Judith Viorst about living with loss, whether it be the loss of your vision of where you think your life should be, or the loss of your youthful self. It motivated me to get rid of seven boxes of books, many of which were topical clusters for future writing projects that I finally admitted I was never going to complete, or for classes I only teach every five years. I mean, we do have a library about 500 feet from my office.

I'm also reading Debt by David Graeber. I am still sad that he just died, so relatively young.

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11 Oct 2020 15:04 #314995 by ThirstyMan
I find reading the Baroque Cycle on Kindle is the way to go.

Then I can look up obscure historical references, that I'm not too familiar with, as I go which keeps me engaged. Kindle does a good job with just highlighting an historical name or event and giving you a quick refresher.
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11 Oct 2020 16:15 #314996 by jason10mm
Is that some sort of x-ray feature or footnotes? Or a dictionary feature? I think I have those books on kindle so I guess I could just see for myself. An annotated Stephenson series would actually be pretty cool for a lot of his books, though I can only imagine the door stopper requirement to take one of his tomes and then have the audacity to add notes in the margins. It'd be like reading "From Hell", 50% fiction and 50% reference guide :P

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11 Oct 2020 23:20 #315006 by ThirstyMan
Yes, it's an X Ray feature and an integrated and downloaded Dictionary as well as an instant Wikipedia look up to the highlight. Depends on how much detail you need.
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12 Oct 2020 22:45 #315045 by Sagrilarus

ThirstyMan wrote: Yes, it's an X Ray feature and an integrated and downloaded Dictionary as well as an instant Wikipedia look up to the highlight. Depends on how much detail you need.


It’s killer for history books. It’s helping me keep both sets of royals straight reading Battle of Bosworth Field.
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