What have you read recently?

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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby satbunny » 7:46pm on 03 Feb 17

I like time slip - parallel dimensions.

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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 10:00pm on 05 Feb 17

Laura Kirwan City of Eldrich series:
Impervious
Crushed
Gods and Swindlers

I got the first as a freebie and liked it enough to get the other 2; apparently there are more coming. A paranormal romance series with a twist: the heroine is on the wrong side of 50 and her only kewl power is that she is impervious to magic or magical effects (but can be hurt by mundane means even if triggered magically). Otherwise there are plenty of other PNR tropes in the series: witches, wizards, dragons, faeries, elves, extra-dimensional stinky squid things, ex-gods etc, etc. A light-hearted romp and tongue-in-cheek enough to be very enjoyable, so I shall keep an eye out for more installments.

The other thing I liked was the ... not smut; most PNR I've come across tends to read like Laurell K Hamilton's Meredith Gentry series. Here, although we joined the heroine and her love interest in the bedroom, and it was obvious what was about to happen or had just happened there were no soft-core descriptions. Don't get me wrong, I have no real objection to smut, I just don't want to read it all the time, and from I've read most romance novels these days seem to treat plot as the connecting line from one sex scene to the next. Fine if you want that kind of thing, but I prefer the story to come first.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 10:57pm on 13 Feb 17

Teresa Edgerton: Goblin Moon Book 1 of Mask & Dagger

What Georgette Heyer might have produced had she written fantasy as well as Regency romance. The series is not set in the same world as the 2 Celydonn trilogies; instead it's set in a fantastic Europe-like world where there are other races and magic seems to work. The ebook version suffered a bit with stray hyphens, but was still eminently readable. I wonder if it was an influence on Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle, Susanna Clark's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and Galen Becket's Mrs Quent trilogy.

A bit slow to get going, and the style is rather mannered (very reminiscent of Georgette Heyer!), but worth the read. Starting with a couple of river scavengers finding a floating coffin, the main thread of the story deals with the tribulations of a pair of cousins, an alchemist, various members of the aristocracy, dwarven merchants... Yes, they are all connected - sometimes the shifts in PoV can be a bit much. Enjoyable.

L Sprague de Camp: Ancient Engineers

Stylistically rather dated, and no doubt some of the content is now superceded by more recent discoveries (originally written in 1960), but still an entertaining and informative read. Basically, the book is history in terms of technological discovery; and suggests reasons why some civilisations/cultures do not seem to progress. It covers various Old World civilisations - Egypt, Mesopotamia, Classical Greece, Hellenistic Greece, Early Rome, Imperial Rome, The Orient and finally Europe. The Americas are only mentioned in passing; this may be to do with the original publication date.

There were things mentioned I didn't know, and others mentioned that surprised me given the date and the fact that de Camp was not an archaeologist (the evolution of stirrups in relation to steppes nomads, specifically the Sarmatians - at the time the book was written, I was under the impression that the archaeology was Russian and largely inaccessible to the West). It does provide background to his historical novels.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 11:59am on 14 Feb 17

I managed to loose a paragraph off the de Camp review:

If you're looking for in-depth coverage of ancient and medieval civilisations and their technological development, this is not that. On the other hand, if you're looking for something which can expand on GURPs Low Tech, and is a readable one-volume discussion on various technological developments and can serve as a stepping-stone for more in-depth reading, then despite the datedness of the coverage it's a worthy addition to the gamers' reference shelf. It's a pity de Camp never wrote an updated version prior to his death, and perhaps added in The Americas and Polynesia (the latter would have been interesting in the case of shipbuilding and navigation).
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 4:26pm on 14 Feb 17

L Sprague de Camp & Catherine Crook de Camp Citadels of Mystery (original title Ancient Ruins and Archaeology)

Reading Ancient Engineers inspired me to dig out and reread my copy of Citadels of Mystery (and log it into LibraryThing as it wasn't already logged). A useful gaming reference especially for pulp era games; the book describes 12 sites, debunks various myths associated with them and speculates on their actual history and purpose. The sites covered are:

Atlantis and the City of Silver
Pyramid Hill and the Claustrophobic King
Stonehenge and the Giants' Dance
Troy and the Nine Cities
Ma'rib and the Queen of Sheba
Zimbabwe and King Solomon's Mines
Tintagel and the Table Round
Angkor and the Golden Window
Tikal and the Feathered Elephants
Machu Picchu and the Unwalled Fortress
Nan Matol and the Sacred Turtle
Rapa Nui and the Eyeless Watchers

Again, an old book (originally published in 1964), with a post script which probably dates from the 1972 reprint. This adds the Santorini connection to the Atlantis legend, and adds more on the Stonehenge calendar theory. I found the writing style to be more accessible than Ancient Engineers.

For what it does, fine, but as with Ancient Engineers don't expect any in-depth exposition. It reads rather like a Ken Hite column, especially from Suppressed Transmission although with more Theosophy etc than Antarctic Space Nazis. Also reminscent of the more recent Osprey titles along the same lines.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 12:01pm on 15 Feb 17

Teresa Edgerton Hobgoblin Night Book 2 of Mask and Dagger

The sequel to Goblin Moon and wraps up the story. The editing process seemed to be better - I didn't spot any stray hyphens.

The heroines and heroes have apparently escaped their enemies by travelling to the New World and are residing there. However, the Duchess is still bent on her revenge and tracks them down... We see more of troll and gnome society (having been introduced to human and dwarf society in the earlier novel), and are introduced to a race of hobgoblins who are more advanced and civilised than their cousins in the old world in Euterpe. The story ends with a double wedding, the raising of a sunken island, and with the death of the Duke, the Duchess looses her taste for revenge...

The book includes 3 short stories - Rogue's Moon, The Ghost in the Chimney, and Titania or the Celestial Bed. The first 2 are set in the same world as the Mask and Dagger series, the last is not but matches the world stylistically. Not owning a paper version of this book (unlike Goblin Moon), I can't tell whether they are bonus material or not.

Very enjoyable; I can't help thinking this would be a good setting for a Victoriana game (or possibly Castle Falkenstein).
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby satbunny » 1:12pm on 15 Feb 17

Tom Zunder: tom at zunder.org.uk
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 8:21pm on 15 Feb 17

Did you like them?
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby satbunny » 9:26pm on 15 Feb 17

Not PhD, not allowed to read them.

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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 10:42pm on 21 Feb 17

Genevieve Valentine Mechanique (from the Steampunk StoryBundle collection)

Odd - both the story and the way it was written. I'm not sure if I liked it or not; I found it rather hard to get into, and the staccato writing style didn't help. Oddly, the style reminded me of Angela Carter - and the story if she'd written the book of the TV series Carnivale.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 7:47pm on 25 Feb 17

Neil Gaiman Norse Mythology.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Norse-Mytholog ... players-21 (as it was full price)

Paul's birthday present. Now read by both of us courtesy of the shared library functionality on Amazon.

Familiar stories told in a modern way, including some I hadn't come across before (memo to self: I really must read more of the sagas especially the Eddas). Paul said only one story was unfamiliar to him (The Mead of Poetry). Some of the content is distinctly not suitable for younger children (unless a Viking child); there's a lot of gore involved and some bestiality.

Very much an updated version of the myths one read as a child and very much closer to what they probably were instead of the bowdlerised versions usually available. (I can't help wondering what Gaiman could do with Classical mythology).
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby satbunny » 12:40am on 26 Feb 17

Thanks for this review. Amazon keep wanting me to buy this, good to know.

Posted by C4-D4RS on the MetroLiberal HoloNet
Tom Zunder: tom at zunder.org.uk
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 11:37pm on 28 Feb 17

Some of the Best from Tor.com 2016 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Some-Best-Tor- ... players-21 (currently free - some of the stories are posted singly on Amazon and are not free!)

A collection of shorts published on the Tor website. Very much a curate's egg of a book; some stories I liked very much, others I thought not very good (either stylistically or subject matter). Some authors are better at writing short fiction than others or have some short pieces that serve as a good introduction to their work, others, let's say I won't be looking out for them! The stories were mostly science fiction or urban fantasy; there wasn't much in the way of more traditional fantasy (but it's rather difficult to pack a multi-volume epic into a short story).

On the whole enjoyable, and good reading for the daily commute as you can easily fit a story in each way.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 5:34pm on 02 Mar 17

Jack Massa Mooncrow https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mooncrow-Jack- ... players-21

An oldie from the paper library (published in 1979). I've put in for a review copy of Massa's latest offering, so I thought it might be a good idea to re-read Mooncrow (it's possible it uses the same setting). Apparently, the book was written as a thesis and later published as a novel. Sadly, Massa has published very little else since apart from a few short stories and a YA novel recently, although he has continued to write.

Magic vs science; science vs magic. Earth 6000 years in the future has fallen back to a pre-industrial state, and magic (actually more like psi-powers) has risen to fill the vacuum, but unlike science, the magicians hold themselves aloof from the rest of humanity. One mage, rebelling against the separation, has left the sub-arctic enclave and headed to warmer climes. However, a war-like people has started re-discovering science and has started on a campaign of world domination.

This is the story of how a lone mage brought down an empire.

Yes, there are elements of Gene Wolfe and Jack Vance here (and from the somewhat cheesy cover you would be forgiven if you thought Flash Gordon was also involved), but the world-building is excellent. I would have preferred greater prominence for the female characters but the story is written from the PoV of the hero and by and large the female characters are his love-interest even though they are (technically) powerful characters in their own right, especially the Infanta.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 7:09pm on 19 Mar 17

Harry Turtledove and Richard Dreyfuss The Two Georges
Originally purchased as the paper edition, picked up the ebook book edition at half-price in the Gateway SF sale last December, now £2.99: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Two-Georges-No ... players-21

An intriguing alternate universe novel. Effectively set in what seems to be the present day in a universe where the American Revolution (and, indeed, subsequent anti-monarchial revolutions) never happened. With no world wars, technology is less advanced: you have steamers not cars, airships not planes (planes are rare and mostly military), most people have a wireless not a televisor etc. The phone system was operator controlled, but oddly there was no mention of a telegraph system - given the general 1930s-1940s vibe to the world building I would have expected it. North America (except Mexico - part of the Franco-Hispanic Alliance, and Alaska - part of the Russian Empire) is part of the British Empire.

Sociologically, the NAU is far more integrated racially, the British Empire having banned slavery and protected the Amerinds, but women's enancipation appears less advanced. Women are mostly wives and mothers, but can and do have jobs. One of the lead characters is female (and is also one of the suspects).

It's effectively a detective novel: an important painting, The Two Georges, the symbol of the foundation of the North American Union, is stolen while on a tour prior to a state visit by the King Emperor. The perpetrators - revolutionaries who want a completely independent North America - hold the painting to ransom. The story details the race against time to retrieve the painting and to neutralise the revolutionaries.

There are some recognisable names: one Tricky Dicky (a used-steamer salesman) is shot from a grassy knoll (in California not Texas) to cover the theft of the painting, John F Kennedy is the publisher of a radical newspaper supporting the revolutionaries (and is a lecher). Sir Martin Luther King is the Governor-General of the NAU. I'm sure there are others I've missed.

Pacing is a bit slow at times; there's a bit of the travelogue about the book. However, this may be a way of slowing down the action given the technological level and the general slower pace of life in the NAU. The other thing was the descriptions of menus. Although the book didn't go into foodie detail, there was quite a bit of attention paid to food (and drink), perhaps again to signify the slower pace of life - and possibly to suggest the glamour of travel.

Still, an enjoyable read with enough going for it to have kept my original paper edition through various culls.
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