Books I've read recently
A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs by Ben Garrod
Rather than a standard (if short) audiobook, this audiobook contains many snippets of interviews with scientists. So in a sense, it resembles a radio show or a podcast.
It's structured very well. I wasn't sure what to expect, and hoped for more than a list of dinosaur facts (a la a children's book). And my expectations were met and exceeded: not only does the book provide an overview of the entire timeline of the dinosaur's existence on earth, it also provides a lot of context, and often even outlines specific scientific methods that were used to get to this or that conclusion. That's very appreciated - many pop-sci books just quote facts that "scientists discovered", without even mentioning how, which feels a little incomplete.
Redshirts by John Scalzi
A nice, thorough exploration of the meta-narrative from the PoV of people either within it, or creating it from the outside.
One Bad Roll: An Isekai LitRPG Adventure by Ryan Rimmel
I had a bit of a hard time getting into the book, but that may just have been because I'd recently finished two other isekai litrpg books by the same author. Eventually it got better and was quite fun; I'll continue the series, I think.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
It sometimes felt a tad too dragged out. It was a completely bonkers book about the insanities of war.
Deepwater Dungeon by Ryan Rimmel
The protagonist was a cute little crab! And he got a starfish friend, who was a ninja! It was adorable!
Unfortunately, it was also very wordy and kinda bloated. I kept getting back to the book because I've just finished Rimmel's Noobtown series and wanted more of the same, but sadly, this was nowhere near as good.
It really was cute, though; and the world was interesting. (It also clearly has deep worldbuilding behind it, which I tend to like; but maybe there was too much of it crammed into too little other stuff.)
Tower of the Noobs by Ryan Rimmel
The audiobook narrator, Johnathan McClain, is excellent. And multiple times during this book I had to pause, to give myself a bit of time to stop laughing. Then I rewound a bit, listened again, laughed some more.
When I was done with the book, I went over the bookmarked funny parts for another laugh.
Can't give a book that does this a bad rating, now can I.
Dungeons and Noobs by Ryan Rimmel
The going gets tougher for Jim!
At first I thought this one will get a lower rating, but the ending was great.
The Book of Random Tables: Cyberpunk: 32 Random Tables for Tabletop Role-Playing Games by Matt Davids
Was curious what these look like.
The Mayor of Noobtown by Ryan Rimmel
I decided to try myself a LitRPG. I expected a short, fun, light-hearted romp, and that's what I got.
I initially wanted to subtract a star because, especially in the beginning, the re-iteration of the protagonist's character sheet was annoying; and it was wordy, so I listened to the audiobook at a much-increased pace. (Read: I probably wouldn't have the patience if I had to read it on paper.)
But on second thought: it was fun, I got what I asked for, and it did make me want to start the next one immediately. So as long as you go into it with expectations properly set, I'd recommend it. 👍🏻
FOLK-LORE by Kolektív autorov
I've stumbled upon this book by accident today at the gallery. It's a critical discussion of Slovak folklore and traditions, through the lens of social issues in a patriarchal society. The text is in Slovak and English. It also has pretty pictures.
The ⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating here, of course reflects how well I think the book handles the discussion it presents, not whether or not I agree with their specific methods or conclusions.
I'm no expert in the topic; to me, the textual introduction of the chapters seemed adequate. The works showcased were really striking sometimes, and managed to hit the right spot: not only serving as commentary on the topics in question, but functioning as works of art in themselves. (Some didn't - see below.)
Some areas were less rosy, though. There was more than chapter with only 1 - 3 images in them; that seemed a bit weak. More importantly, however: some of the works sucked. If you want to make a point, and contrast it with someone else's work, at least make some effort. Putting a nice drawing from the 60s next to something that an eight-year-old would whip up in MS Paint in ten minutes seems disrespectful to the original author, regardless of your lame justifications in the accompanying text.
So all in all, it was an interesting look into how these women authors think about their (traditional?) role in our society.
Slovník súčasných slov 2 by @slovnik_sucasnych_slov
Eh. Started of good, was fun. But a big part of the book there just to be there - it got repetitive and boring.
Still, fun for a while.
The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics by Tim Harford
This book is well-written and engaging. But perhaps the best thing about it is its explicitly stated goal: not just to spot wrong or misleading data and cynically conclude everyone is lying and nothing can be trusted; but instead, a lot of care is put into explaining how to constructively interpret what's in front of your eyes and get to the underlying truth eventually.
Instead of sensationalism, it promotes quiet, meticulous diligence with the goal of understanding. The author advocates both for rigorous practice, as well as clear messaging.
The argument in the concluding chapter was unexpected and so brilliant it seems obvious in retrospect: that having the best, most rigorous data often doesn't help change minds, but that rephrasing your message in a way that engages with the recipient in a way that entices their curiosity just might.
Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
The aspect of people killing each other for the entertaninment of others will surely remind you of Battle Royale or the Hunger Games; but unlike those, Chain-Gang All-Stars is set to pretty much the modern-day USA, with a sci-fi gadget or two thrown into the mix.
As with those other two books, it dissects what people are willing to accept with enough brainwashing and convincing that it's okay as long as it happens to other people. Especially if they're from an undesirable social class. All of the characters are well developed and interesting, on all sides of the conflict, and Adjei-Brenyah pulls no punches.
I'm not an expert on those topics, but I think the USA's societal issues this book touches on are handled well and do represent the views on all sides quite accurately.
Extracts from Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown
There were 3 chapters read by Brown himself; and the one on memory is really worth listening to. This is the first time I've encountered detailed how-to on memory tricks that actually work.
Fancy A Cuppa? British Slang 101: The Hilarious Guide to British Slang (Includes Must-Know Swear Words, Funny Expressions & Cockney Rhyming Slang) by Jeff Watson
About what you'd expect: a short, fun booklet.
Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
A superhero story set into an alternate history; I loved how it unapologetically embraced all of the superhero/supervillain tropes. Both PoVs were great.
The villainous single-mindedness and conceit reminded me of Yahtzee's Dr Diablerie. 😁👍🏻
The audiobook, especially Paul Boehmer's performance, is a treat.
Radicalized by Cory Doctorow
Fun novella-length explorations of four contemporary issues. I think I liked Unauthorized Bread and Masque of the Red Death the most.
Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We'll Win Them Back by Rebecca Giblin, Cory Doctorow
An important book for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of art and its economics in the world of today. It'll also help you understand why it's so hard to earn a living with art today, when there clearly are plenty of people willing to support their favorite artists.
Importantly, this is not a book of rambling complaints. It lays out the situation across many spheres, provides plenty of citations, and outlines ways to solve problems, without pretending there are easy fixes.
The book is quite US-centric. But given global influence of its corporations - we're all listening to the same Spotify and Audible, after all, and the various lobbying groups work across both our continents - it's still relevant. (And all of this is also acknowledged and discussed in the book.)
Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
It again was really dragged out. A lot less of interesting character exploration, a lot more travelling. And fighting.
Still, once I adjusted my expectations, it was a lot of fun. I'd give it one star more, were it not fort he ending. I don't expect every ending to be a happy one, every endeavor a success - but if you say that basically nothing in the book mattered, then what was the point?
If this were the first book in a series, I would not continue. Since there's only one left, I guess I'll finish it, but my expectations aren't high at this point.
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
The beginning was really dragged out. And the ending felt abrupt - it's not a satisfying, self-contained story by any stretch. But I liked the characters well enough to want to continue the series.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
I don't understand why people claim that it's science fiction. Just because there are aliens in it? Come on!
It's a book about war. Specifically, World War II; more specifically, the firebombing of Dresden.
The author uses a disturbed protagonist who believes he was abducted by aliens to justify the book's unique non-linear structure that jumps around in time. It's largely an autobiographical work, spiced up with the narrative device of Tralfamadorian aliens.
My audio version had a bit of conversation between the author and (I think) his editor at the end. That was also great.
It's worth noting that I don't usually read "realistic, historical" books about wars because I have zero interest in reading unnecessarily detailed descriptions of people being thrown into the meat grinder of suffering. This book is not like that.
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Just as rich and complex as one comes to expect from Stephenson. There were moments where I had to pause just to exclaim along the lines of "did you seriously just write that? Who let you do that?! That's hilarious and amazing!" 😁
The audiobook was excellent as well. It's one of those where there is music at the start of chapters. In this instance, I liked the music immediately; and got my mind blown when it turned out to be relevant to the plot.
(And the dictionary definitions at the beginnings of chapters were narrated by Stephenson himself, which I also appreciated.)
The Truth by Terry Pratchett
Haven't read a Discworld novel in quite a while. I've missed Pratchett's style. Though I think all the books I've read previously were set in the Discworld at large, not just a single, grimy city, so it was a tad more oppressive than what I'm used to.
Orbus by Neal Asher
This book starts off centered around side-characters from the previous books: Orbus, Sniper, and Vrell. And the plot doesn't even touch the planet of Spatterjay itself. I wouldn't mind that in itself; actually, the first parts of the book have shown interesting character development for Orbus. That's something this series really could use.
But by the halfway mark, all of that was forgotten... and also the book pivoted from a nice sci-fi to a sci-fantasy with elements I also disliked in Asher's book Dark Intelligence. It's not all bad; even though the descriptions of battles were long and drawn out, the rest of the plot was okay, and the ending was good. However:
Without going into spoilers, what basically happened was they resurrected the Sealed Evil in a Can, which immediately had random godlike powers and got to ignore all the rules of the series so far. As a narrative device to heighten the stakes, it failed for me utterly. If it were handled differently and had the character development not disappeared in the latter half of the book, this might have been the best book of the series. (Most especially, if the time scale the Jain thing happened on was longer; then it could have been written without what basically boils down to "suddenly the balrog got resurrected and did evil magic".)
As it is, it's the worst one by a wide margin.
Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian
This book reminded me of How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg in that it described concepts, explained them, and illustrated how they pertain to real life. It's approachable to a layperson and seems relevant. It also shows a positive perspective on memory deterioration caused by aging! 😁
Your Letter by Hyeon A. Cho
I'd give this 3 stars; it was decent, but not amazing. But I'll add one because it was cute, positive and uplifting. 😊
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
I didn't expect it to be as good as the first book, but it still was a huge disappointment.
The first book had actual plot, where the protagonist was building his knowledge, putting in the work, building friendships, and eventually won through the Power of Determination and Friendship.
This has none of that.
Know what? I'll put it into a videogame simile, to keep with the theme of the book.
Reading the first book was like playing a complex game; a roguelike, or an MMO. There were failures, there was a lot of wiki-browsing and note-taking, a lot of exploration. Progress seemed earned.
Reading the second one was like watching someone speedrun a game, if that someone is just following a walkthrough, has no idea what's going on most of the time, and hands the controls off to someone else when he's too lost. It reads like a long list of outtakes from the first book - a ton of quest descriptions with no relevance or impact to the plot whatsoever. It could have been 50-60% shorter. I've only finished it because I had it in audio and could listen at almost 2x speed most of the time.
Yes, there were some decent moments, but overall, it's not worth it. And I didn't like the kind of bullshit about people's minds and bodies the book pushes as fact.
And that leads us to the last two important points. First: Wade, I think, was supposed to undergo an arc. In the beginning, he acts as a rich asshole; but then understands his errors and tries to mend things. He even acknowledges that he wasn't in the right regarding ONI, just as Samantha also acknowledges some points about it. BUT:
If you really accept the book' premise about the ONI principles (keeping it vague here to avoid spoilers): the protagonists very much commit unforgivable non-consensual violations against millions of innocent people. They do realize this. They just don't care. Their stance on the most important question on morals, volition, consent and basic bodily autonomy in their universe is "we'll figure it out later; we'll just do whatever we feel like, for now."
I think it was supposed to be a positive, upbeat ending; I found it sickening.
Fire by Kristin Cashore
It was fun, and the world full of vividly colored "monsters" interesting to imagine. The characters were always deeper and more complex than they at first appeared.
Yet somehow, I'm not especially eager to read the rest of the series. Not completely sure why.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Some of the young-adult aspects were bringing it down a bit. But at least the romance wasn't botched.
And if you're wondering: no, you don't need to know anything about the 80s pop culture.
The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey
Quite good. Unnecessarily drawn out at times.
I also appreciate a detective story with no murders.
Going Dark by Linda Nagata
A good enough ending to the trilogy, even though I liked it less than the previous installments. It still was split into three separate sub-arcs, just like the previous books, and there were a few intersting twists. But alas, it was a lot longer than it needed to be. It felt drawn out and lost a lot of the impact it could have had.
If This Book Exists, You're in the Wrong Universe by Jason Pargin
I think Wong/Pargin is getting better. This was fun, and I like how the plot was resolved. I also really appreciate the mix of bad circumstances mixed with hopefulness; not just another "everything sucks forever".
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
A practical text concisely answering a single question: what can I, a simple citizen, do to prevent my country's slide into tyranny?
It's a short manual, and uses clear k language and plenty of examples from recent history. Aimed primarily at Trump's USA, but general enough.
Spook Country by William Gibson
Based on the reviews here, I expected it to be a not-great sequel, but I've enjoyed it.
Maybe the themes presented weren't as strong as in the first book. But there were 4 PoV characters, and every time the narration switched from one to the other, I was excited to see what will happen with this one. That doesn't happen often, with books with this many PoVs.
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
I gave this four stars initially. Then I went to write down a few notes on the topics and themes in this book, and come to think of it, I'm changing it to five.
The book doesn't feel dramatically groundbreaking or exhilarating. Yet there's a lot going on, the protagonist is quite interesting, and especially the titular theme - pattern recognition - is explored in depth and from various angles. Yet it's done in a "Gibsonian" manner: it's never explicitly rammed down your throat with tedious explanations. Plot happens, characters think, it's up to you to catch on.
Questions about art, fandom, and commercialization, and the internet are woven through the story as well. (The book is set in 2002 and was published in 2003, so the internet back then was something completely different than it is now.)
Also, I think the only reason this is tagged 'cyberpunk' and 'sci-fi' is because it's Gibson and people tagged it without thinking.
It absolutely isn't cyberpunk in any way; and I say it isn't sci-fi, either. You could possibly argue it's one of those set in "Next Sunday AD", like for instance Doctorow's Little Brother, but I'd say even that doesn't hold water here.
To Live Forever by Jack Vance
A book dealing with some of my favorite topics, an interesting antihero, nice pacing, the sci-fi parts aged quite well - I've enjoyed this book a lot.
One thing that's funny in retrospect was the medical optimism. Understandable, since it was written in the fifties. But the 20th century definitely isn't remembered as the one where we defeated disease.
The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
The horror elements here will give you a pleasant thrill, but nothing too hard core. So if you're wondering whether you'd handle it, you'll probably be okay.
I've mostly read older horror stories before, and I appreciate the newer perspective here. (The book is published in 2019.) The heroine reacts as a modern person - aware of the horror genre and not willing to take anything supernatural at face value - might. That, combined with plenty of humor, make for an amusing read.
On the other hand, I wish the author would cut down on the humor and witty commentary in the latter parts of the book, when the going gets tough. There it just takes you out of it. Yes, we get it, you realize how ridiculous this would sound if you told anyone. And that you can make jokes. Pls focus on the monster currently eating you, instead.
Shadowborn by David Dalglish
A great conclusion to a fun series.
While I didn't like the reveal at the end of the previous book at first, this one made good use of it. The world, the characters, and their actions were clearly thought through and executed well.
And the ending was satisfying, while managing to not cheapen all that has lead up to it.
Fireborn by David Dalglish
The battles were fun, and I like how the author worked with the PoVs and their various perspectives.
However, the book's beginnings were quite drawn out and kinda boring, I didn't love all the reveals, and I'm not feeling especially generous with the stars today.
I will definitely read the last book in the series, though.
The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
I think I have a new favorite. And once again I'm glad I went into this one blind. Exploring it was a joy.
A complex story with a satisfying conclusion. I don't think I've ever read a detective story quite like this one.
Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick
A great introduction to the theme. Covers the topic broadly, but not too deeply.
Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age by Cory Doctorow
A great overview; recommended reading for anyone interested in the role of the internet in modern-day arts, copyright issues, policy, or any of the myriad issues impacted by it.
Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg
I liked it, even though the pacing was slower and more ponderous than my usual fare.
I've enjoyed Smilla herself, and how she was depicted as a flawed human, yearning for the company of others and yearning for community, even as she realized how much she treasures her solitary independence and freedom. How she did not offer love readily - but still gave it as best she could, when a strange child reached for it.
William Gibson's Neuromancer: The Graphic Novel by William Gibson
Liked the adaptation, disliked some aspects of the art style.
An English Murder by Cyril Hare
Bottwink was fun, and I also liked the butler.
It's been a long time since I last read a detective story, and it was interesting to note how it changed my perceptions. My sense of where in the story arc I am was all jumbled up; often in other genres, finding the murderer is a catalyst for further plot development, often accelerating the pace. I found myself wondering how come we're after the halfway mark and we're still just puttering about, slowly exploring the circumstances (and then of course going oh, right).
Another thing I seem to have forgotten about the detective genre: that I'm not supposed to be able to figure the resolution out logically from the presented facts, because some crucial information is always withheld until the very end. I suddenly recalled it always irked me; and I still don't like it. But it's not that big a deal, either.
The length felt just right.
Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Liked it less than the first one, but it's still great. Looking forward to the third installment.
Busted Synapses by Erica L. Satifka
It seems that when a book ends considerably more abruptly than I expected, I need to take a while to consider if I'm satisfied.
Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke
The book was short enough for the gimmick not to get on my nerves. At first I liked it a lot; the last third, not so much.
The Lydia thing was also good.
Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon
ℹ if you're considering reading this book, here's a handy little PSA: The word the author chose for the symbiont, 'khui', means 'dick' in Russian (хуй). Just... keep that in mind as you read. It'll make the book a lot more fun.
Idoru (Bridge #2) by William Gibson
Quite a bit different from the first one. It took me some time to really get into it, but I ended up liking it.
Virtual Light by William Gibson
While it did have a lot of elements of Gibson's prose I generally like, it somehow felt weaker; it took me a lot of time to get into the story. The latter half was better.
Slovensko Komické by Prešporské divadlo
Moje ocakavania boli vyssie.
Ano, niektore boli super - od takej Sebechlebskej alebo Pavelkovej by som iné ani nečakal.
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Some (audio)books you speed up because they're boring. I kept speeding this one up because I HAD TO KNOW what comes next. How it ends.
I have asked someone if it ends the way I wanted it to; but I should have asked for more details. Maybe then I wouldn't need to rush along so madly.
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
I knew it had to be different from the first book, because of how that one ended. But I did not expect it to be this bad. I have read a quarter and I'm dropping it. Maybe I'll try continuing later, after some time has passed, and maybe after reading a wiki summary or something.
Man, what a disappointment. :(
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Eeeh, I dunno. It was fun enough, and I came into it expecting just goofy fun. I mostly got that. But I expected more of Wong's (or Pargin's, if you will) traditional brand of craziness.
While this did provide a menagerie of crazy images, it seemed a lot 'tamer' than his previous work. More in line with what a "normal book" should look like, I guess. If you prefer your books rather more sane then less, you might end up liking it a lot more.
That said, I did consider giving it one more star, and will be starting the next one soon.
The lampshaded play on supervillains was also nice.
The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
The first ~half was dragged out almost to the point of tediousness. Actually considered dropping it. One thing that kept me going was the good depiction of Tau's thirst for revenge. I appreciate that while the protagonist's (or, if you prefer, anti-hero's) drive was completely built around revenge and hate, not once was it glorified. Instead, it was always portrayed as the dreary, unfulfilling thing it is.
The latter half of the book got better, but I still think the fact that the people Tau wanted to take revenge on for killing his father also happened to be the main villains of the story was a bit too 'convenient'. There is one person he wants to kill, and since there's no chance he would come out of the story as anything else than a monster if there was nothing more, that person also betrayed the queen. Tau is depicted as not giving a fck about helping the queen and only wanting to kill, so at least there was no face-heel turn.
I am still undecided how many stars I want to give it. Four ⭐⭐⭐⭐?
... nah, I guess I will go with three, because I was promised dragons and I didn't get enough of them. But I might read the next book in the series, eventually, which is not something I' expect, based on the first half of the book. Or - wait wait wait. Actually, four stars, because the world-building was decent (tight, even if not especially deep) and the characters were fine as well.
What the Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong
I think the previous book, This Book is Full of Spiders, sold its plot better. It was more focused; the suspense, the atmosphere, the stakes were built up better. However, I still liked this one, and had a lot of fun.
This Book Is Full of Spiders by David Wong
I'm... surprised to report I actually liked it?
I didn't think I'd continue reading this series, the first book being what it is. But I wanted something silly and fun, and was surprised that this actually had a plot? And a relationship between David and Amy? And plenty of the fun stuff from the first book.
Now I'm definitely going to read the next one as well. If you're on the fence about this series - skip the first book, start with this one.
The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
Still following Sanderson's old formula of 'add a gimmick, explore it in a book'.
But I'm increasing the rating because of how the characters interacted in these past two books. We get to see living, friendly relationships full of love, that develop over time as they spend more time together.
The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
I think Sanderson might be better at making up worlds and stories than he is at writing them down. The prose is too wordy, unnecessarily dragged out.
I don't have a word for what he is doing, but these novels are like the fantasy version of popcorn in a way: you keep coming for more, but you can't expect any real nutrition.
On the other hand, I do think the complex, thoroughly explored mechanics and world building place them above standard pulp.
It makes no pretense of being highbrow, either: it's just some action, albeit complex, designed to impress you with epic moments and predicable, schematic humor.
This book won't inspire you to change your life or drive you to ponder the nature of the human condition; it might, however, make you want to immerse yourself in this well-oiled mechanism of Sanderson's making.
Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
In the form of a venereal disease, the entrance to a malleable city of dreams slowly spreads throughout the world like a nightmare of Lovecraft's. Anyone it touches, it brings to depravity through their new craving for Palimpsest; a gift exchanged for an obsession.
Watch our heroes try to ascend even as their lives, and their very bodies, shatter.
There is a list of things that are of Palimpsest: seclusion among many, vivid prose (+⭐), fantastical cityscapes (+⭐), theatrical gestures, off-putting obscenities (-⭐), rings of bees, domains of November, unnecessary accents, a heart of ice.
Existentially Challenged by Yahtzee Croshaw
I am pleasantly surprised how Yahtzee can repeatedly pull this off. His prose is always full of full of weird analogies and descriptions, yet I'm never annoyed by them. The characters are flat, but they're fun and I like them.
In Differently Morphous, I was fascinated how Yahtzee can use characters that basically are silly caricatures dialed up to 11, yet still use them for a complex, reasonably nuanced exploration of a topic through their interactions. There was less of it in this book, and it was a lot less interesting. This, combined with the fact that Dr Diablerie wasn't on the scene as much, is why it's not getting five stars.
Both books in the series are complete on their own, with small tidbits of a larger, overarching narrative. I do hope the next one comes along rather sooner than later.
And of course, hearing Yahtzee narrate his books is always a joy.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Goodreads has this tagged as magical realism, and I've also seen it referred to as urban fantasy. It is neither. Instead, it's historic fiction with a gothic feeling to it.
The entire plot revolves around the life of Daniel, and makes detours to shed light on the past of various other characters that come into his life. I found these detours a bit too long for my taste, even though I suspect that for people who enjoy this kind of book, it might not be that bad.
I also appreciated how several circles have closed by the end of the story's arc, and how the author worked with the "gothic" imagery, especially in the beginning with Lain Coubert and in the final confrontation. (Not sure if that 'gothic' is the correct term here, but I don't have a better one.)
All in all, I liked the book, even though the style doesn't quite suit me.
The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
This was so much fun.
The bit of plot in the last quarter of the book is tempting me to subtract one star; but I'll be generous. It's the ideal book to read if you're feeling bombarded by the oppressiveness of reality, lately.
It takes plenty of tropes, most notably from the titular Kaiju genre, and unapologetically places them front and center. It's not serious; instead, it invites you to laugh along.
Even though I'm not sure if I have personally seen a single Kaiju movie, I know enough to enjoy this just by cultural osmosis. Which is to say - I don't think you have to be a fan of the genre to appreciate this book.
(There also are various other literary references, sometimes directly discussed between the characters. Fortunately, they never feel forced.)
Wil Wheaton's narration was also great - it was very clear that when the characters were having fun, so was he.
I hope you'll join us and enjoy this book with a goofy grin on your face.
Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon
The first half of the book was slow, peaceful and deliberative. I have enjoyed watching how Ofelia, in her seventies, went about her day. The book painted a picture of quiet joy and contentment I appreciate; of solitude and loneliness. It also showed how plenty of the societal expectations beaten into Ofelia during her lifetime keep influencing her even when there is no more society to enforce them, even as she realized how unnecessary that is. The close narrative distance was a big factor in making feel so vivid and personal.
It also is one of those books where I'm really glad I didn't know anything about them when I started, so I won't spoil anyone's surprise here. I'll just say that the pace picked up a bit in the latter half, and I loved that, too.
The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Both the books in the series made me think "wow, this sounds awesome, I'd like to go through that in a videogame." That feeling was even stronger with the second book, because exploring a strange island with strange fauna sounds great.
One point off because it wasn't as good as the first one; another point off because it was way too dragged out. Scott Brick is a good narrator, but the narration was very slow and needed a big speed boost.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
I expected a lot more action and a lot less talk about science. This was much better.
1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir by Weiwei Ai
I don't know that much about China's history, so I appreciate the way Ai tries to paint a more complete picture and shows wider context for the personal events in the book.
I'm not sure what caused it, but I felt that the part about his father was much more humane and intimate; compared to it, the part where he talked about himself seemed much colder, detached.
Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto by David Kushner
I'm really not sure how much I liked this book and how to rate it. Three or four stars? Depends.
On the one hand, I had a few issues with it. I find that more and more I prefer books that don't contain reconstructed dialogue at all, and mention sources of specific claims. Right at the beginning of the book, the foreword explained the necessary context and set expectations, so I'm not saying it's misleading.
But especially if the book contains vulgar or outrageous statements or suspicious claims, I'd like to know if they're there because a person said/believed them, or the author is extrapolating based on interactions with the person, or the author is just making jokes/being crass.
Furthermore, I think on some level I liked the book because in comparison with Masters of Doom, the protagonists an their interactions were far more interesting or likable. And maybe the narrative distance was better? Not sure if that's the case. But with the two Johns it felt like I'm in the room with them, watching them work and bicker. With the two Hausers it felt like I'm being told how a conceited man thinks he's better than everyone, from afar.
I acknowledge that this might be outside the author's control to an extent, but it does influence how much the book is enjoyed.
On the other hand, the book did provide tons of cultural context and influences on the society at the time in general, and on the creators (or at least bosses) behind the games. Since I don't know much about the history of music, and I know even less about movies and actors, this was appreciated. I have jotted some of them down to listen to later, or in the case of movies - added them to my ever-growing to-watch list, probably to never watch them again.
I wish the book talked more prominently about the issues related to crunch - most of the time it was just mentioned in passing, as something that is just a part of the game dev process. On the other hand, the author did point them out in the epilogue. And in 2012 when the book came out, these issues weren't that visible and publicly discussed as they are now, so I think it can be forgiven.
The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
Ok, I really haven't expected I'd end up liking this as much as I did. (Especially considering I didn't like the first book that much.)
The plot lines were handled well, the ending satisfactory, the author obviously also paid a lot of attention to Russian history and mythology.
The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
At first I thought I wouldn't like it much, because it again started quite slow. But the pace picked up sooner than it did in the first book, and I liked the plot better, so I guess it wasn't that bad after all. I'm actually looking forward to the third installment. I almost didn't continue the series, but now am glad I did. (Thanks for the impetus, Book club!)
The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter
A fitting ending to a fitting series. I'm feeling nostalgic for this world already. It also was one of those rare sci-fi/fantasy worlds where living in them might actually be nice (for the average non-protagonist).
The Long Utopia (The Long Earth #4) by Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter
I dunno. It's not nearly as charming as the first two were. But at least the Assembler plot line went to interesting places and the finale was good. Looking forward to the next one.
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher
What a nice story! I liked the length, the protagonist, and the fact that it eschewed some of the simplistic tropes that books for kids often suffer from. For instance, the book didn't pretend that once the Bad Guys are dealt with, all problems disappear. Instead they were acknowledged without bogging the story down.
The part in the middle was too drawn out though, and could be improved by tighter editing, I think.
In the first third I kept thinking the dough magic could be explored more - and in the last third, it was. I also dislike how the blurb mentions the "sourdough familiar" that comes up maybe three times in the book, when there is a different familiar that was in every scene and actually had a personality. I guess "gingerbread man" didn't sound as good to the marketing team.
By the way, if you like the idea of a world where random people have random, individual magical talents - maybe take a look at Wildbow's Worm. It's not the same genre: it's for mature audiences and it's very long. But it builds an amazing world around this premise.
The Last Question by Isaac Asimov
Kinda reminds me of Weir's The Egg. On second thought, the theme/the point is not that similar, but what they do have in common is they both were hyped, trite and unsurprising.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
The first half of the book was way too boring and dragged out. After that, it rapidly got better, to the point that I'm now considering reading the next one in the series.
And I really appreciate how well the Slavic mythology was handled. (Not sure what to think of the vocabulary, though. Saying 'dvor' and 'izba' in the middle of an English sentence just sounds... unnecessary.
Lightless by C.A. Higgins
I have read some articles about how professors at schools are encountering issues with students, where the students fail to save or locate their files, and are baffled when asked about this, because they have no idea what a file is. Turns out the digital generation doesn't absorb knowledge of how to use a computer, or how one works, just by virtue of being able to shitpost on twitter from their macbook since birth.
This book sometimes reads as if a person like that decided to write a novel about computers and artificial intelligence.
Also, there seems to be a black hole that devours everything, except the air of the room it's in.,
I've found this book in an article in the style of '12 great sci-fi books'. I've read and liked 10 of them, so I expected this to be a lot better.
The Ivan's character was fun to read, and the last ~20% of the book were quite fun as well. (Except maybe I'd like a more dramatic ending, but that would probably have made it harder to sell sequels.)
The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven
Imaginative, deep and engaging. Basically "Alien Threat Assessment: A Novel." There were museum visits, a few battles, plenty of exploration and talking - and the most tense moments were playing out in discussions.
Possibly a new fave.
Breach of Containment (Central Corps #3) by Elizabeth Bonesteel
I'm feeling generous, so 5*. It does build upon the basis of previous 2 books quite well. The already established world makes for a good substrate for characters old and new, and the plot itself is captivating. I admit that at first I thought the author is overdoing it with how extremely pacifistic everyone in the military was, but she sold the idea quite well by the end.
I also appreciate that all of the books were self-contained, so there was no second-book syndrome. That's not to say it doesn't matter where you start - the books do very much build on one another, so you'd be missing out on most of the context that seems to make each successive book in this series better than the last.
Plus, the plots of the three books make for a cohesive narrative arc that seems to open and close in the right places, showing us a tumultuous few years in the character's lives and the changes they effected.
Remnants of Trust by Elizabeth Bonesteel
Maybe it was just because I already knew the characters, maybe not. Or maybe it was because of PSI's greater involvement. But I liked this one better than the first book.
Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones
Exactly what a fairy tale should be: wonderful, magical, with lovable characters. Yet never watered down where it mattered, and not mired in the worse tropes so often present in the genre. (In the beginning I kept expecting the protagonist to act stupidly for the sake of plot, but he never did.
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
Ah, when I started reading and realized this must be where the word "grok" comes from, I was like,
Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
I liked the first one quite a bit more. Adding an extra star because of the ending, and because the central idea - that space travel is economically so nonviable that you'd need to build a religion around it to make it happen - is interesting.
Oh, and if this came out today, nobody would like it, because they would say she just blatantly wrote about Trump, just changed the name.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
Thirty years ago Butler described a cataclysm we still may actually get, and the epistolary/journal form suits me well. I liked the scope of the book and its closure, and will be starting the sequel soon.
I also kept thinking that this kinda reads like a zombie book, just without the zombies.
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
This book is often mentioned alongside other classics of the dystopic genre, so I'm naturally drawn to compare.
Contrasted with the biggest one, Hunger Games, I'd say the biggest difference is the depth of world-building. In Hunger Games a lot of time is spent establishing the characters and the world they inhabit. While the same is also present in Battle Royale, it's much narrower in scope, with most of the time being spent looking over the shoulders and into the minds of the various students. (Compared to Hunger Games, which - if I recall correctly - only had a single PoV character.)
The other comparison at hand would be to Orwell's 1984, which is often mentioned alongside Huxley's Brave New World. When I started reading Battle Royale, for some reason I expected something more along the lines of those two, so I've been surprised when it turned out so action-packed.
I definitely see strong similarities with 1984; it, too, depicts a successful totalitarian regime that keeps its citizens in check with brutal efficiency, even though the methods differ.
If 1984's ruling class uses the stick more than anything else, citizens of the Brave New World mostly get the carrot (and, of course, a metric ton of brainwashing). In this regard, Battle Royale falls somewhere in between - a ruthlessly efficient and cruel system, which also gives its citizens some leeway, to appease them and to make them reluctant to rebel. (But these topics are again less developed here than in 1984 or BNW.)
I'm giving it 5 stars, because I ended up liking it more than I expected. However, if you haven't read the Hunger Games trilogy yet, perhaps it would be better to start there. I think it's better tailored for the sensibilities of a modern YA reader.
Tahiti: Utópia by Michal Hvorecký
Neskutočné sklamanie. :(
Na knihu som sa tešil, premisa zaujímavá a alternatívna história Slovenska je super téma.
V celej knihe nie je snáď žiadna priama reč, ani kúsok dialógu. Celé sa to číta ako extra nudný historický traktát. Párkrát som preskočil dopredu či sa to zlepší, nakoniec to odkladám nedočítané. Skúsim si niekde nájsť krátky sumár, alebo čo.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I liked how big a role was played by world building (if that makes any sense), even though it did mean the plot suffered a bit for it. I also like the main themes and topics, such as overpopulation and eugenics, in sci-fi. I'm considering giving it stars
Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
Murderbot goes sherlocking. SecUnit 3 isn't in this one, which is a bummer, but Art isn't here either, which evens it out.
I also really like the Techy Word Salad approach Wells took to naming the books in the series.
Edit: oh yeah, reading someone else's review reminded me of a thing I wanted to point out several books ago: I don't much care for the audiobook's narrator.
Network Effect by Martha Wells
There were a few annoying things, so I'm tempted to give it fewer stars. But it was a fast-paced story that read well, so, whatever.
I appreciated more of the characters feeling like actual characters. (Besides the protagonist, Mensah and SU3 were the best, of course.) I did not appreciate having to accept a lot of newly made-up rules and things that didn't really jell with the existing ones, most notably Murderbot 2.0 which made no sense, and to a lesser extent the organic alien engine thing. Or maybe all the alien remnant things. Suddenly this felt like a high magic fantasy book.
I liked Art well enough, but I guess I've had enough of it; when the book ended on a note implying we might be stuck with the Murderbot+Art combo for the next few books, I was like eeeeeugh, pls no. (Then it turned out OK - no Art in the next one.)
In the first few novellas, I've been afraid we're supposed to accept the crazy corporate dystopia is universal; since then, it has been established that it isn't and some people in-universe find it abhorrent. Which is enough for me; I don't even mind their economic system does not make any sense at all.
Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
I'm not sure I'd label this work as cyberpunk, but it definitely has plenty of characteristics I associate with it - both in the structure and values of the society, and in the depictions of hacking; said depictions being highly unrealistic and fun.
Wells didn't go all-out Matrix, Neuromancer style, and that's probably good - the story doesn't need it. But since the mechanics of it seem similar, for the past few books I kept thinking that realistically, the most amazing thing about Murderbot is how good at programming it is. I mean, this is setting some unrealistic standards for young people, right here.
Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
Much better than the previous one. Probably because there's less yapping around and more stealthy sneaking around Murderbot seems so good at.
I also like the use of the made-up jargon: it's nice and fits well. Mostly.
The Future of Work: Compulsory by NOT A BOOK
At this length, it's more of a picture than a story. But it's a great picture that adds a lot of color to Murderbot's world.
Death's End by Liu Cixin
For the most part of the book, I thought it's good though not great, 3 stars. Just thought I might give it 4 stars anyway, just because of the sheer number of ideas presented.
If a smorgasbord of ideas is what you like, you might enjoy this book a lot.() The author clearly put some thought into many of the topics discussed.
But that just makes the places where he didn't all the more jarring. There are many things that don't make any sense in context, or just aren't believable at all. Sometimes they're small, but they sill disrupt the narrative. So on one hand, you have the main parts of the narrative and the justifications for them explained in excruciating detail; on the other, a few paragraphs later you're presented with some clearly ridiculous notion you're just expected to accept at face value.
The plot mostly just serves as a way of stringing the various ideas together, so they can be presented (which I don't mind in principle); most characters are flat and undergo no development at all (ditto). And while I generally also don't mind characters waxing philosophical about one thing or another, here it sometimes seemed to devolve into hackneyed platitudes.
However, about the last quarter (or fifth?) of the book was pure nonsense. Just a ridiculous pile of drivel that completely ruined the book for me. That's why I'm giving it 2 stars in the end. Pity: first three fourths I enjoyed despite its shortcomings, only to be then unable to stop rolling my eyes and wishing it would end already.
() But then you might be better off reading one of Greg Egan's books, like Diaspora, or the Clockwork Rocket.
Dispel Illusion by Mark Lawrence
I'm really surprised by how well the trilogy ended. Going in I expected it to be about as good as the 2nd instalment (which I gave 3* to) - not horrible, not great in any way.
But boy was I pleasantly surprised. This final part builds very well on the plots already established and even casts some of them in a different light, a literary move I always like.
Most of the book I thought "well I see how this is going to end; I'm not exactly happy about that ending, but it makes sense and would make this a good book." Then Lawrence pulled a few twists and voila, the book is suddenly very good indeed.
Glad I read the entire trilogy - this alone made it worth it for me.
Oh, and I also kept getting flashbacks to Steins;gate again, just as in the 1st one (but interestingly, not the 2nd). There was timetravel, talk of parallel universes and time loops, but in case of this book, I actually enjoyed it.
One Word Kill (Impossible Times #1) by Mark Lawrence
If you're looking for something fun, go for it, this was great. The titular D&D theme seemed a bit stretched at times, but no matter.
Also, by a coincidence, I have read this - a novel that handles time travel in a reasonable manner - maybe a week after I'd finished watching Steins;gate, which is an anime about time travel that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. So it was a nice change of pace. :D
Starving Anonymous Vol. 7 by Yuu Kuraishi
Not the bestest ever, but fun.
4 stars because I liked the ending!
Gwind: Nezabiješ? by Lívia Hlavačková
Toto je nová edícia knihy - aktualizovaná nie je len obálka ale aj obsah. Kniu aj so zvyškom série prevzal nový vydavateľ a rozhodol sa vydať vylepšenú verziu jednotky, skôr ako bude pokračovať ostatnými dvoma dielmi.
Musím uznať, že kniha sa naozaj číta príjemnejšie než predtým. Nie, že by som si pamätal detaily pôvodného textu - predsalen už uplynul nejaký ten piatok odkedy som ju čítal. Pamätám si ale, že predtým ma pri čítaní rôzne veci rušili, a to sa teraz už nedialo.
Jeden príbehový oblúk sa síce do konca knihy uzvrie, ale stále je dosť cítiť, že príbeh má ešte pokračovať. Čo ale nie je problém, pretože ak všetko dobre pôjde, vyjde zvyšok ešte tento rok.
Dvojka sa rýchlo zaradila k mojim obľúbeným kihám, takže podľa mňa nová Gwind za prečítanie stojí.
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
I started reading this book solely because I liked the name. I thought I knew what genre it was; I was very wrong. This is as far out of my comfort zone as can be, I guess.
So I'm not really sure why I liked it that much. I really did. It was great. Maybe a new fave. I'm still processing it.
Also, I did get what I asked for: many looks at the various faces of solitude.