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  1. #1
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Reading in March 2012

    This is where you talk to us about your monthly Fantasy and Horror Reads: whether good or bad, we want to discuss with you what you thought.

    Our Fantasy Book of the Month is Among Others by Jo Walton. Discuss here.

    Our SF Book of the Month is Into the Looking Glass by John Ringo. Discuss here.

    Mark
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  2. #2
    Registered User murf99's Avatar
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    Half way through my re-read of A Clash of Kings. Can't wait for April 1st.

  3. #3
    I'm reading Warrior Prophet by Bakker. I wasn't very impressed with book 1, the Darkness that comes before, especially after the hype I've read about it for many years. But I am trying to stick with it to see if it pays off. Very little action so far and I'm a book and a half trough the series. Interesting characters though....

  4. #4
    I just finished Dark Moon by David Gemmell after reading the first 8 Dresden Files books. Loved all of them. Now I have to finish Yes Man by Danny Wallace. Then I'll read Glen Cook's Black Company trilogy (the first one).

  5. #5
    Sony Reader PRS-650 Astra_'s Avatar
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    Half way through Midnight Tides [The Malazan Book of the Fallen #5] by Steven Erikson.
    So far, so good. Not as brilliant as the first three books but still very good.

  6. #6
    It never entered my mind algernoninc's Avatar
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    just started Haruki Murakami - Kafka on the Shore. It looks very promising, the kind of book you want to read slowly, taking your time going back to reread some well phrased paragraphs and wishing I didn't have to go to work for a couple of days so I could stay in and do nothing else.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by algernoninc View Post
    just started Haruki Murakami - Kafka on the Shore. It looks very promising, the kind of book you want to read slowly, taking your time going back to reread some well phrased paragraphs and wishing I didn't have to go to work for a couple of days so I could stay in and do nothing else.
    I quite enjoyed that one too. It was very different to Hardboiled, which we discussed in the book club but much more to my liking.

  8. #8
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    I finished Black Opera by Mary Gentle and here is a minirerview The Black Opera is the third standalone alt-hist novel I read by the author (after 1610 and Ilario) and it is the most fantasy-nal as it has souls, returned dead, ghosts, music as magic.

    It is also the lighter and least "serious" of the three with action that resembles an operatic plot in many instances; I am not that familiar with opera but I enjoyed the parts set into its world (bare-bones plot - bad guys want to use a special opera to bring down society for the greater good of course, good guys have to write/compose/perform a "counteropera" to stop the bad guys, though of course things are subtler in many ways).

    The main characters of the book - most part of the opera world in a role or another with a few kings, emperors, cardinals and soldiers added in since we are in sff hence we deal in saving the world here - are quite vivid and stand out with different personalities.

    The action takes place by and large in the 1820's South Italy (home of the opera after all) though there is some backstory and some details about the rest of the world. As mentioned above the operatic touch means that the novel balances between over-the-top fun and more serious stuff, but the author's skill is such that it is always a pleasure to read as the dialogue is crisp and funny - with occasional touches of subtlety and depth - and you slowly get to care about the characters and their fate - again in traditional operatic mode there are powerful emotional scenes - while Mary Gentle's storyline twists and turns quite a lot.

    If there is a weakness - of course assuming that the balancing act works for you - is the choice of Kingdom of the Two Sicilies as the focal point of the movers and shakers of the action which of course makes sense from an opera point of view but not really from a sffnal point of view so to speak.

    Still one of my top 25 novels of the year though its ultimate lightness (not unlike Men of Genius of 2011 though longer and slightly more evolved) will keep it from the top-top

  9. #9
    Creator of Worlds sullivan_riyria's Avatar
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    Good God - it's March already ? I've been too busy writing to get as much reading a I wanted to in Febuary - going to try and rectify that for March.

    Despite seeing some recent bad reviews, I'm already partially into "Under the Dome" by Steven King so I'm going to keep going. I'm expecting it to end weekly (my one criticism with King) but usually there is enough for me to like on the journey to the end that I don't mind as much.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Eventine View Post
    I quite enjoyed that one too. It was very different to Hardboiled, which we discussed in the book club but much more to my liking.
    Ugh. I love Murakami but Kafka on the Shore just bored me intensely. I'm probably in the minority on this but I feel his more concise romance novels make for his best work.

  11. #11
    MJ Dusseault Spears&Buckler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyye View Post
    I'm reading Warrior Prophet by Bakker. I wasn't very impressed with book 1, the Darkness that comes before, especially after the hype I've read about it for many years. But I am trying to stick with it to see if it pays off. Very little action so far and I'm a book and a half trough the series. Interesting characters though....
    The Warrior Prophet is one of my all time favorites; I hope it works out for you.

    I'm just about finished with A Storm of Swords (bloody fantastic!), and I'll be reading a little of Side Jobs by Jim Butcher until my copy of Shadow's Son by Jon Sprunk arrives. Putting Stephen King's Carrie on hold for a little while.

    Wow. Looks like this is my 500th post. I love milestones!

  12. #12
    Analyze That
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    Sadly, I gave up on last months Book Club Book, Well of Shadows, based on not having any desire to find out what happens. So I'll let my comments that I had at the slightly more than halfway point stand.

    After how good "The Dragon's Path" was, I felt I had to go back to The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham. I had read the first book a while back, liked it, and promptly forgot about it.

    I re-read it in two days, and then proceeded to read Betrayal in Winter in another two days. This is a very fast pace for me, despite the facts the books are quite short.

    The man can characterize. He has a way with making extremely sympathetic characters that still have these flaws (usually its simply being young) that tear them apart. I remember thinking the story didn't quite have the urgency when I read it, and that's still true. Compared to what goes on in most epic fantasy, these are relatively minor events. But they are extremely important to the characters we get to care about.

    And for people that love characterization in their books, I fail to see how Abraham can be disliked as an author. In my mind he should be up there with at least the Rothfuss's and the Sandersons of the epic fantasy world, if not with the Martins and Jordans.

    I don't know if I'd call him the most underrated author that I've read, (Stover, Kearney, etc all have good claims), but he may be the most confoundedly underrated author that I've read. I can see how Stover might be too weird, (particularly Blade of Tyshalle), or Kearney can be too slight for some, but there's nothing I can see other than lack of exposure that should prevent Abraham from being one of the top names in fantasy. There's really nothing you can dislike about these books.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by molybdenum View Post
    And for people that love characterization in their books, I fail to see how Abraham can be disliked as an author.
    Quite easily imo. Characterization is probably the biggest factor in whether or not I'll enjoy a book, but it sounds like we have different definitions, or, perhaps, ways of evaluating the concept. It took me forever to read A Shadow in Summer because, for me, there was *so* little there.

    Imo, the plot and characters, in the abstract and as an outline for a book, were fine (as was the prose). But those character outlines just weren't built up and written. Imo there was almost no substance. An author can assert "This character is really _______ (likable, wise, cunning, empathetic, etc.) but imo the author then has to write that. For me that didn't happen, so I would say things like the characterization was tissue-thin, flimsy, and hugely undeveloped/underdeveloped. I really wanted to like the book, which is why I gritted my way through it and eventually finished. But based on my way of perceiving it, the story (and especially the characterization) was far too simplistic and minimalist.

    I bought this book soon after I came to this site, based on seeing some of the positive comments for it and imo, it was a tremendous disappointment. Not the worst fantasy I've ever read, but among them.

    There's really nothing you can dislike about these books.
    I'd almost say the reverse. I hope that I've provided some insight into why at least one person feels quite differently about Abraham.

  14. #14
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    Right. I'd forgotten I had different standards for characters than most people. This may seem condescending, that is not my intention.

    I think the problem with a lot of people have with evaluating fictional characters is they look for distinctive qualities about each character. Something that makes each person within the story who they are. And I don't think that is indicative of real life. There are a lot of people who are similar, who may not have that distinctive quality, per se, but still be very interesting and relatable and generally likable.

    So when you look at a book like A Shadow in Summer, you don't really have a lot to differentiate between Otah and Maati. And that's OK for me, because you expect them to be similar. They were both cast out by their families to be a poet, and both had what it takes to succeed. They both are mostly concerned with doing what they believe to be the right thing. And they are both young and human and prone to error.

    We're told Otah was pretty well a genius when it came to the work of the poets, and we never get to see Otah be anything like a genius. I believe that's what you are talking about when you say the author asserted something and did not follow up. But we never got to see Otah be a poet, and he has no special skills that make him a better labourer than anyone else. The author never had a chance to show us Otah's genius with the school, so he had to tell us to give us a backstory. With Maati, we aren't ever given reason to believe he is out of the ordinary as far as top level young prodigy poets go, and he acts exactly as you'd expect one to act.

    I'm rambling, let me get to my point. The key to characterization in my mind is not making the character distinct but rather make the character sympathetic without making them perfect. What works for me is making them someone who either tries to do the right thing without always succeeding because they are human, or making them regret the path they had taken which is less honorable and not be able to stand themselves as a result (there is an excellent example of this in the second book). I don't need distinct categorizable characters as much as I need real-sounding characters that I can invest myself in. And Abraham does it better than anyone on this side of Martin.

    I have a lot more to say, so if you want, we can make this discussion into its own thread.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by molybdenum View Post
    Right. I'd forgotten I had different standards for characters than most people.
    Please don't take me as representative of the norm. I pretty much never fall in the category of "most people", so I'm really not a good barometer by which to judge.

    This may seem condescending, that is not my intention.
    I didn't take it that way, but thanks for the consideration.

    I think the problem with a lot of people have with evaluating fictional characters is they look for distinctive qualities about each character. Something that makes each person within the story who they are. And I don't think that is indicative of real life. There are a lot of people who are similar, who may not have that distinctive quality, per se, but still be very interesting and relatable and generally likable.
    That could be. I, of course, can only speak for myself. Distinctive characteristics are nice, and as a reader I want every character to have some sort of uniqueness, if they are all completely interchangeable then I do wonder if the author is being lazy, or perhaps might have a blind eye when it comes to this aspect of their writing. But I actually do think that Otah and Maati did have enough differentiation so that they were not interchangeable and I could have potentially found them well written (in my view). My problems lay more in that I didn't feel that the author really did give them personalities beyond the basic outlines. We didn't get into their heads in any depth (imo) and their conversations were not terribly illuminating as to who they were supposed to be as people. As you say, the basics were there, but I never thought them to be any more than those fictional building blocks. Consequently I didn't think of them as real people, but instead as devices to serve the plot. That's what I was/am *trying* to say when I mentioned the author asserting. My apologies that I wasn't clearer, hopefully this will make more sense. But obviously we see things differently (based on our view of this novel), and so arriving at an explanation that makes sense to both of our perspectives may be a challenge.

    As far as "interesting and relatable and generally likable" go, then I think that such things are very much dependent on the individual reader. For example, I might find geology terribly interesting but not chemistry, and you could potentially feel exactly the reverse. There's a fictional character called Kvothe, written by Pat Rothfuss. I find him to be relatable and likable, but I know that I'm in the minority in that opinion, and in fact, there are people who believe so much the opposite that they have called him a Gary Stu. So, I really believe that such impressions and reactions are not universal. I could be wrong, but that's my belief.

    The author never had a chance to show us Otah's genius with the school, so he had to tell us to give us a backstory. With Maati, we aren't ever given reason to believe he is out of the ordinary as far as top level young prodigy poets go, and he acts exactly as you'd expect one to act.
    Actually, I don't mind those aspects so much. I have some experience in dealing with "genius" and in that experience I've found it more often the case that such individuals are not universally above the norm in all that they do, but instead, are quite exceptional in some ways, average in others, and often possessing a deficit in yet more ways. This is sometimes evidenced when brilliant people have trouble with names, faces, dates, the reading of facial expressions and body language, etc. Some commenters try to make a binary option of "street smarts" vs "book smarts" but I really do think that that's too simplistic.

    I'm rambling, let me get to my point. The key to characterization in my mind is not making the character distinct but rather make the character sympathetic without making them perfect.
    I can somewhat agree with you here (not about the rambling, and considering how long-winded I am then I am in *no* position to say so even if I did hold that opinion). I don't know that I would define characterization for me in that way, especially as I do wonder whether people's internal thoughts would contain some differences even if they are quite similar. I would have to give it some thought, but I don't think that this is really at the crux of our difference of opinion. My guess is that we are each interpreting the same information in very different ways, so that what comes across to you as laudable characterization is perceived as something less to me.

    What works for me is making them someone who either tries to do the right thing without always succeeding because they are human, or making them regret the path they had taken which is less honorable and not be able to stand themselves as a result (there is an excellent example of this in the second book).
    I am fine with such characters, though I like other sorts of characters as well, but I understand your preferences in this.

    I don't need distinct categorizable characters as much as I need real-sounding characters that I can invest myself in. And Abraham does it better than anyone on this side of Martin.
    But I very much have to differ with you on this. I didn't think that the characters (at least in the first book) had very much of a sound, what they did have might have had threads of realism but those threads were just not woven into living, breathing, characters in my view. I do agree with you that Martin is one of the best at characterization ime, but I can't place Abraham close to him in any way.

    I have a lot more to say, so if you want, we can make this discussion into its own thread.
    I don't mind one way or the other. I'm fine with staying here, going to an existing thread on Abraham or the series (if there is an existing thread where such a conversation would be relevant) or moving to a new thread. Whatever you think best.

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