What Are You Reading?

Books, music, movies, your love life...anything goes.
Fixxxer
Posts: 11
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2022 9:45 pm

What Are You Reading?

Post by Fixxxer »

When I read, I typically go through distinct phases. I like non-fiction history a lot, but it's often dry or a sometimes it's just a LOT of information to process after the fact, so I'll switch gears and read a bit of fiction for a while. Most recently, I read through I Am Asshurbanipal, King of Assyria, King of the World. It's a companion piece to the Assyrian exhibit on the first floor of the British Museum, which I was fortunate enough to be able to tour a few years ago. It was a fascinating book that featured heavily on the stone wall friezes discovered at the palace in the excavations at Nineveh. But it wasn't light reading. That done, I picked up the book I'm currently about halfway through, The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett, which I found via a "recommended reading" thread on Imgur. I didn't realize when I picked it up that it's the first in a series of five books. It's fantasy set in a world where unkillable demons appear every night and slaughter whoever they find. We follow a couple of teenagers on the cusp of figuring out why that is and what can be done about it. It's not a sprawling epic like A Saga of Ice and Fire or The Malazan Book of the Fallen, but it's exactly the kind of light reading that wanted.
catalyst
Posts: 17
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2022 12:50 am

Re: What Are You Reading?

Post by catalyst »

I am methodically working my way through NPR's list of the best 50 Sci-fi/Fantasy books of the Last decade. I'm through over 30 of them so far. Most recent reads were This is How you Lose the Time War, which is a romance between two time-traveling spies and Authority, which is the second book in the Southern Reach trilogy, which is like modern Lovecraft story that builds across three books and isn't full of racism.

My favorite books from the list so far have been: The Fifth Season by NK Jemesin, which is the best book of the last decade in my opinion, it just has everything you want in a fantasy/scifi story, Piranesi by Susannah Clarke is a great novella, really full of fantastic imagery, & Gideon the Ninth is over-the-top craziness, really fun book that moves super fast.
catalyst
Posts: 17
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2022 12:50 am

Re: What Are You Reading?

Post by catalyst »

Fixxxer wrote:
Sat Apr 16, 2022 8:52 pm
It's not a sprawling epic like A Saga of Ice and Fire or The Malazan Book of the Fallen
I got to book 10 of Malazan book of the Fallen and finally gave up. So many characters, so many names, shifting timelines all over the place, it just becomes impossible to remember stuff that happened 5 books earlier and how it's relevant to the plot. There's cool stuff in that series, but after a while it's just too much.

Fixxxer, have you read the First Law series by Joe Abercrombe? They seem like they'd be right up your alley.
Talanall
Posts: 24
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2022 3:13 pm
Location: Northern Louisiana, USA

Re: What Are You Reading?

Post by Talanall »

I average somewhere close to 100 books a year, most years, so it's actually kind of hard for me to give a precise summation of what's going in on my life as a reader at any given moment. The bulk of it is sci-fi and fantasy, but I also rotate in quite a lot of history and biography, some popular science, and various flavors of noir, historical fiction, detective/police procedural, humor, and mystery.

Currently, I'm reading Thieves' World: Volume One, which is an omnibus of three volumes' worth of short stories and novellas, all set in a shared fictive world devised by the late Robert Lynn Asprin, who edited and contributed throughout. It's all pretty old-fashioned stuff; the material in this omnibus dates back to 1979-1981, and the contributing authors' list consists of prominent names from that era: Philip Jose Farmer, C. J. Cherryh, David Drake, and Marion Zimmer Bradley all show up in this omnibus. Later volumes show continued involvement by Drake and Cherryh.

The story from Bradley features a female character who is inappropriately young to be a romantic interest, but is seen as one by the main character of Bradley's story. This was published before her heinous molestation of her own daughter became known, but reading it was definitely a kind of, "Oh, shit. Yeah, the signs were there, all right," kind of moment for me.

Getting past that, the majority of the contents of this volume are sword-and-sorcery fare of a kind that I think would appeal to people who enjoyed Robert E. Howard's Conan and Solomon Kane. It's very much in the same spirit. I would also say that it has aged . . . not poorly, exactly, but unevenly. It was written in an era with very different gender politics, and the tales in this book rely on plot devices and conventions that might or might not have the same zest for modern readers as they did 40 years ago.

I think the non-fantasy fiction I've read recently that would be most likely to appeal to folks around here is probably Lindsey Davis's sprawling historical mystery series that turns on the misadventures of one Marcus Didius Falco, an "informer" in Rome during the Flavian dynasty (that'd be Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, who succeeded the Julio-Claudians). It is a pure delight, both because the characters and plots are a lot of fun, and because Davis's period research is generally of very good quality. Start with The Silver Pigs. The Falco series is quite lengthy, at 20 volumes plus about 4 short stories and novellas, but totally worth your time. There's also a sequel, the Flavia Albia mysteries, featuring his adoptive daughter from the barbaric frontier province of Britannia.

Other honorable mention goes to the works of Tim Dorsey, who is like a discount version of Carl Hiaasen or Elmore Leonard. Like then, he writes darkly humorous noir/mystery/crime novels set in Florida.

Returning to fantasy/sci-fi, I have a real soft spot for the work of Charles Stross, especially his engrossing Laundry Files series. It begins as a somewhat bizarre crossbreed between The IT Crowd, Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, and the works of H. P. Lovecraft; it's quite the strange mix of workplace humor, espionage, and cosmic horror. The tone gradually gets darker and darker as the series continues. Start with The Atrocity Archives. I would say that this scratches some of the same spots as Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, but it's very much its own thing. Separately, he also has been doing some really interesting "parallel universe/alternate present" sci-fi in his Merchant Princes series (start with The Family Trade.

In similar vein, Rivers of London is the jumping-off point for Ben Aaronovitch's engaging Met Police procedural/modern wizard urban fantasy series.

A more traditional fantasy that I've enjoyed lately has been the Quillifer trilogy by Walter Jon Williams. The eponymous first volume is Quillifer; the setting is a secondary world that is reminiscent of Tudor England (there is even an ersatz Shakespeare). The main character, Quillifer, is the son of a butcher; he survives the sack of his hometown, becomes a lawyer, gets involved in life at the royal court, attracts the attention of a hostile goddess or faerie, and spends a lot of his time being a conniving, opportunistic asshole. If you enjoyed The Lies of Locke Lamora, this is a pretty good bet for you; Williams's work here also is somewhat reminiscent of Joe Abercrombie's lighter material.
catalyst
Posts: 17
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2022 12:50 am

Re: What Are You Reading?

Post by catalyst »

Wow - I did not know that about Marion Zimmer Bradley, how terrible. I really loved Mists of Avalon. I'd like to check out that Thieves World, though, I generally like sword and sorcery stuff.
Fixxxer
Posts: 11
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2022 9:45 pm

Re: What Are You Reading?

Post by Fixxxer »

catalyst wrote:
Sun Apr 17, 2022 11:02 pm
Fixxxer, have you read the First Law series by Joe Abercrombe? They seem like they'd be right up your alley.
I have, and it is. I thought the first trilogy was pretty amazing stuff. The followup standalone novels were even better in some ways. The most recent trilogy was... well, it wasn't bad, but it lacked something the earlier works had in abundance. I didn't really care about any of the characters the way I did with the earlier books.

Also, I agree about the Malazan Book of the Fallen. People who love it tend to LOOOOOVE it and often times won't shut up about how it's the greatest story ever told. I found myself confused most of the time while reading it.
Talanall
Posts: 24
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2022 3:13 pm
Location: Northern Louisiana, USA

Re: What Are You Reading?

Post by Talanall »

I really liked The Malazan Book of the Fallen, but clarity isn't a high priority for Steven Erikson. That puts the whole series very solidly into a class of literature that I avoid recommending to people unless I know they like that sort of thing. It's not for everyone. Like, no reasonable person would sneer at you if you said, "I read The Sound and the Fury but I was confused the whole time," or "Infinite Jest mostly just gave me a headache." I think Erikson is like this, too: difficult on purpose, in much the same way that people say that regarding William Faulkner, James Joyce, or David Foster Wallace.
catalyst
Posts: 17
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2022 12:50 am

Re: What Are You Reading?

Post by catalyst »

I read that somewhere that the Malazan books make a lot more sense if you read them in Chronological order, rather than Published order.

Edit: found it https://malazan.fandom.com/wiki/Suggested_reading_order
Talanall
Posts: 24
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2022 3:13 pm
Location: Northern Louisiana, USA

Re: What Are You Reading?

Post by Talanall »

That's probably true. I always prefer publication order, though. When an author deliberately uses disordered chronology, I try to treat that decision as an artistic choice and trust the author's judgement.
catalyst
Posts: 17
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2022 12:50 am

Re: What Are You Reading?

Post by catalyst »

I'm not sure whether this was deliberately disordered chronology or whether he just wrote whichever book seemed cool at the time.
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