2021 Slow Read - Thread to Discuss Our Options

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Hi All,

I thought I'd bring up the subject of a slow read for 2021. For those who don't know, a 'slow read' is a shared read of a longer and often more in-depth work that we read a few chapters of at a time and discuss each week. We had two very successful slow reads is 2018 (The Lord of the Rings) and 2019 (The Book of the New Sun). Our 2020 effort (The Broken Earth Trilogy) was less successful, though, with the majority of respondents not really getting into it.

I'd like to see if there's interest in running a slow read in 2021. I personally quite enjoy the experience, and I think the weekly traffic at the site is beneficial.

Here are a few ideas I had (some of which have been floated before) - lets see if any of these appeal:

1. Dune, by Frank Herbert. The books is 896 pages (depending on edition) so it's a little shorter than others we've done, but too long for a monthly pick, in my opinion. It's an SF classic, and invariably in the top 5 on lists of best SF books ever published.

2. Titus Groan + Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake,
These are also classics and among the very top of best fantasy novels ever written. These were a great inspiration to Michael Moorcock, among others. They are very well written and very imaginative, and the world of Gormenghast (essentially the innards of a very large, ancient, castle) is fairly rich in detail, which means there will be stuff for us to tease out, and maybe Easter eggs to find. The potential pitfall, in my view, is that these are fairly dark novels with an anti-hero at the center, but no real heroes. The two works are about 900 pages.

3. The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco.
This is one is on lists of the greatest books of the 20th century, or even among the greatest books ever written. However, it's only 512 pages long, so only good for half a year?

4. Codex 1962 by Sjon,
This is a trilogy by the critically acclaimed Icelandic author and described on the dust jacket as his 'epic 3-part masterpiece'. It's only 517 pages, but reviewers seem to suggest that it feels lengthy and is a bit of a workout - ideal for slow reading.

Cover blurb: Josef Löwe, the narrator, was born in 1962—the same year, the same moment even, as Sjón. Josef's story, however, stretches back decades in the form of Leo Löwe—a Jewish fugitive during World War II who has an affair with a maid in a German inn; together, they form a baby from a piece of clay. If the first volume is a love story, the second is a crime story: Löwe arrives in Iceland with the clay-baby inside a hatbox, only to be embroiled in a murder mystery—but by the end of the volume, his clay son has come to life. And in the final volume, set in present-day Reykjavík, Josef's story becomes science fiction as he crosses paths with the outlandish CEO of a biotech company (based closely on reality) who brings the story of genetics and genesis full circle. But the future, according to Sjón, is not so dark as it seems.

In CoDex 1962, Sjón has woven ancient and modern material and folklore and cosmic myths into a singular masterpiece—encompassing genre fiction, theology, expressionist film, comic strips, fortean studies, genetics, and, of course, the rich tradition of Icelandic storytelling.
I refer you to this review, which seems to offer a good summary: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2420353489?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CoDex_1962:_A_Trilogy

5. The Islanders + The Dream Archipelago + The Evidence, by Christopher Priest.
I've read the first two of these years ago and am reading the third, now. Each book stands alone, and the order in which they are read isn't really material. The Islanders is largely a gazetteer, a book that describes several of the islands in the Dream Archipelago and is interspersed with short stories set on some of them. The Dream Archipelago is just short stories that take place within the setting. The Evidence is a novel that takes place within the setting. These works are very inventive, the stories are... odd, and unsettling in ways that can be hard to describe. Together, these three work out to 966 pages.

6. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
Also listed among the best SF ever written, this is a classic trilogy by one of the three fathers of SF. 679 Pages.

7. Dangerous Visions + Again, Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison,
A classic collection of groundbreaking SF short stories. This would be very different from reading a novel, but rewarding for the club, I think. I'm sure there would be lots of ideas to discuss each week. 592 + 790 pages, so that's longer than any anything we've done up to now, but doable within a year, I think.

8. The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay.
This comprises two novels: Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors, adding up to 953 pages. We did read one of his books before with only mixed success, and this book follows in the same vein of sitting on the fence between fantasy and historical fiction. This work is his masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned. It gives us a fantastic treatment of the story of Justinian, so I'm sure there's fodder for comparison in the discussion topics.

9. The Book That Shall Not be Named.
No point going there again, I don't think. I still think it would be great, though.

Please share your thoughts on the above. Got any others to add? Please suggest them below.

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Comments

  • 1

    I would be most favorable to 1, 4, 5, and 7. I would not be participating in 6. I am not sure what 9 refers to.

  • 0
    First I'm totally in favour of another slow read - even with a book series I just didn't like, the experience of the slow read with this most excellent group of people is very rewarding.

    I suppose #9 features a whale as a major character?

    I don't have strong feelings about which to choose - I'm surprised that #6 is nearly 700 pages as those first three always seem very short to me (there are of course later additions to the series).

    Another stray suggestion is His Dark Materials, which has been showing here in the UK thus year (books 1 and 2 so far). To lay cards on the table, I thought book 1 was stunningly original, but 2 and 3 slumped somewhat as Pullman got a bit lost in his own rhetoric and beliefs. And some folk might potentially be offended by the overt presentation of those beliefs. But it does, I think, have enough depth for a slow read.
  • 1

    Oh! God! That's right! The book that shall not be named is up there is the 'can't participate" category, as you knew! We've talked about it before! Arrrrgh! I've tried it too many times!

  • 1
    I think I need to form a parallel book club with @Ray_Otus and @Michael_S_Miller ’s wife and maybe @BarnerCobblewood to read number 9.
  • 1
    edited January 2
    > @Apocryphal said:
    > I think I need to form a parallel book club with @Ray_Otus and @Michael_S_Miller ’s wife and maybe @BarnerCobblewood to read number 9.

    I'd be up for it (but you probably knew that already)
  • 0
    edited January 2

    My best self fully intends to participate more this year as I "flee" other forms of social media and concentrate a bit more on my reading. Last year was an awful reading year for me. I read mostly rubbish and not much even of that. Not sure why. This year I started off with the 1937 edition of The Hobbit. (I started re-reading it last night and I know the revised version so well that the little differences really stand out*.) And am finishing up JG Ballard's The Crystal World which is flawed but fascinating. I bought Piranesi and Pao and failed to really crack them, though both look like good books. Anyway, 2021 feels "right for reading" to me. As for the slow reads:

    I favor 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9

    Not sure about 8. I would like to make friends with Guy but have so far not been attracted to the books. As for 3, I read Name of the Rose before and I can't quite decide if I want to read it again. I think the religious argument at the center of it bounced off me at the time for reasons of having grown up in a fundamentalist church and as an adult eschewing a lot of deep religious discussion as too reminiscent of that former experience. It might catch on me now.

    9 is kciD yboM? Correct? The hint before also puts me in mind of Godwhale by T. J. Bass, which sounds interesting to me. As for the great white one, it's a weird and fascinating book. I enjoy Melville a lot and remember White Jacket fondly, as I do his collection of short stories and novellas I was assigned to read in college. Typoo is on my list of things to indulge in some day.

    Anyway, I'm sorry I haven't been a better reading friend since the launch of the forum.

    Is there a thread for best book read in 2020? My best reads were T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone, God Emperor of Dune, the first Corum trilogy by Moorcock, The Castle by Kafka, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One 1929-1964, The High Crusade, The Dying Earth (four book series by Vance), Heinlein's Between Planets (one of his juveniles that I still really like), and Travels with Charley. Winner was probably the Science Fiction Hall of Fame 1 for the sheer amount of great stories. But it's mostly a toss up among those titles. (Looking back I'm surprised I even read this many good books in 2020. Stuff I read before COVID seems like it was 3 years ago, not 10 months ago).

  • 1
    edited January 2
    • Almost forgot the asterisk. Last night the most notable standouts were 1) Tolkien saying Hobbits were smaller than Dwarves but much larger than Liliputians and 2) the idea that some ancestor in the Took line married a faerie wife or as some less charitable people would have it, a goblin. (All paraphrased as I don't have the book at my fingertips while I type.) Anyway, reading this once again reminds me how fluid the world of Middle Earth was in the early days.
  • 1

    @Ray_Otus said:
    9 is kciD yboM? Correct? The hint before also puts me in mind of Godwhale by T. J. Bass, which sounds interesting to me. As for the great white one, it's a weird and fascinating book. I enjoy Melville a lot and remember White Jacket fondly, as I do his collection of short stories and novellas I was assigned to read in college. Typoo is on my list of things to indulge in some day.

    I am a huge fan of Melville - Typee is amazing! But I cannot get through Moby Dick. It's like a .22 caliber bullet hitting Hero 5. I get so far and I have no more energy...

  • 1

    @clash_bowley said:
    I would be most favorable to 1, 4, 5, and 7. I would not be participating in 6. I am not sure what 9 refers to.

    So ... tell me about your aversion to the Foundation Trilogy. :) I will probably agree with you on some points. It's not the strongest set of works in the list though it is kind of fascinating. Last time I experienced it was in the form of the BBC radio plays. The last time I read it was in the 80s.

  • 1
    edited January 2

    @Ray_Otus said:
    So ... tell me about your aversion to the Foundation Trilogy. :) I will probably agree with you on some points. It's not the strongest set of works in the list though it is kind of fascinating. Last time I experienced it was in the form of the BBC radio plays. The last time I read it was in the 80s.

    Not a big fan of psychohistory. I would do the Robots novels, but not Foundation.

  • 1

    @Apocryphal -- where is the complete list of books we read? I assume you have it posted here somewhere. I see everything back to the G+ days, but from 71 backward I'd like to review the list. I want to see how many I have missed.

  • 1
    Happy New Year! I hope my 2021 reading is better than 2020. It could hardly be worse.

    I'd likely start the attempt at a Slow Read with selection 1, 3, or 7. Honestly, my odds of finishing are very small, so don't weight my vote heavily.
  • 1

    @Ray_Otus said:
    Is there a thread for best book read in 2020? My best reads were T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone, God Emperor of Dune, the first Corum trilogy by Moorcock, The Castle by Kafka, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One 1929-1964, The High Crusade, The Dying Earth (four book series by Vance), Heinlein's Between Planets (one of his juveniles that I still really like), and Travels with Charley. Winner was probably the Science Fiction Hall of Fame 1 for the sheer amount of great stories. But it's mostly a toss up among those titles. (Looking back I'm surprised I even read this many good books in 2020. Stuff I read before COVID seems like it was 3 years ago, not 10 months ago).

    Not yet, but feel free to start one. I mentioned my favourites in my 'report on reading' thread posted a few days ago. @dr_mitch updated also updated his reading list, but I don't think he indicated his favourite for the year.

  • 1

    I’m in for any of the choices, but here is my Ranked-Choice Ballot:

    2 & 7 sound amazing.
    9 I’ve been trying to read since The Great Eastern.
    1 & 6 I read as a teenager and multiple times since.
    4, 5, & 8 sound good.
    3 I would be willing to read with the group.

  • 1
    edited January 3

    Another slow read sounds good.

    Reads I'm keen on:

    • Dune, perhaps Dune Messiah as well (probably not enough room for Children)
    • Codex 1962: never heard of it, but it sounds interesting.
    • The Dream Archipelago et al. I've read some of these at various points. Interesting enough for another go.
    • The Sarantine Mosaic: the other book we read had interesting depth to the setting, even if the metaphors in the story were a little too laboured to be successful.

    Reads I'd join:

    • Titus Groan + Gormenghast: I tried reading these about 20 years ago and didn't get very far. Perhaps a reading group would help?
    • The Name of the Rose: might be fun to play "spot the metatextual reference" as we're going.
    • Dangerous Visions: no familiarity, so I've no idea if I'd like it.

    Reads I'm not interested in:

    • The Foundation Trilogy: It's such a foundational text (no pun intended), is there much that would be gained by going
      over it again? Also, I don't recall Asimov been a deep writer, with work that stands up to great scrutiny.

    • The Book That Shall Not be Named: and long may it remain so.

  • 2

    Note to self: Try to be more constantly engaged this year.

    Here are my picks in order:

    The Islanders + The Dream Archipelago + The Evidence, by Christopher Priest. This seems interesting. At the top because unread.

    Dangerous Visions + Again, Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison. Sure! At the top because unread. Also, perhaps the diversity of writers means that as a group we won't all have to agree that the whole thing is interesting, which might make it easier to reach the end together?

    Titus Groan + Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake. This is great.

    The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay. I like Kay. Why not?

    The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco. I'd suggest Foucault's Pendulum instead, especially as it seems to be an apt description of so many of our fellow citizens' ideas of how society works. Might provoke a lot of conversation about how and why this works, as well as being a source for social gaming.

    The Book That Shall Not be Named. Sure, why not? I loved the Harry Potter series!

    Dune, by Frank Herbert. Ok, but not thrilled.

    The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov. Meh.

    Finally, Codex 1962, by Sjon. I really do not know about this. The summary left me cold. If the group chooses it, I will go along as I am neither for nor against.

  • 1

    @NeilNjae said:
    ...
    Reads I'm keen on:

    • Dune, perhaps Dune Messiah as well (probably not enough room for Children)
      ...

    I found Dune Messiah to be quite good on re-reading it two years ago. It is more political and less action oriented, but very deep. Children turns back toward action a little more and, frankly, I feel it has suffered a little over the years. It felt slightly 'thin' or corny to me when I re-read it recently.

  • 1

    I'd like to do 1, 2, or 3 - and 4 and 5 really intrigue me enough to want to read them even if we don't pick them!

    6- Foundation - I remember reading as a younger man and finding it utterly terrible, and I'm not sure if I have enough in me to overcome that to re-read. I found it more boring than playing Traveller, and that was saying something.

    So, in order

    4 or 5 - yes please well up for em

    1 2 or 3 - yes

    6 - no

    other stuff - yeah whatevs

  • 0

    OK, so - counting everything people said 'yes' or 'ok' to above, we end up with a 3-way tie (6 votes each) between

    A: Dune (+ Dune Messiah, sounds like)
    B: The Islanders / Dream Archipelago / The Evidence
    C: Dangerous Visions / Again Dangerous Visions

    So, I'll ask you to rank these, giving 3 points to your favorite, 2 points to second favorite, and one point to your third choice.

    Highest total points wins.

    Note that Dangerous Visions appears only to be available in print in Canada/UK/USA, while Again, Dangerous Visions, is available as Kindle, but not tremendously available in print. Please keep this in mind when voting.

    It's also worth keeping in mind they we'll probably re-visit all of these again, and some could even be monthly pics - we're just choosing what to do this year for the slow read.

    Thanks,
    Chris

  • 0

    3 pts B: The Islanders / Dream Archipelago / The Evidence
    2 pts C: Dangerous Visions / Again Dangerous Visions
    1 pt A: Dune (+ Dune Messiah, sounds like)

  • 0

    6- Foundation - I remember reading as a younger man and finding it utterly terrible, and I'm not sure if I have enough in me to overcome that to re-read. I found it more boring than playing Traveller, and that was saying something.

    Traveller was my entrée into role playing. Who doesn’t live a game where your character can die before the end of character creation?

  • 0

    3 pts - C: Dangerous Visions / Again Dangerous Visions
    2 pts - B: The Islanders / Dream Archipelago / The Evidence
    1 pt - A: Dune (+ Dune Messiah, sounds like)

    I changed my order a bit based on others’ comments.

  • 0

    3: Dune (+ Dune Messiah, sounds like)
    2: The Islanders / Dream Archipelago / The Evidence
    1: Dangerous Visions / Again Dangerous Visions

  • 1

    3 pts: The Islanders / Dream Archipelago / The Evidence
    2 pts: Dune (+ Dune Messiah, sounds like)
    1 pt: Dangerous Visions / Again Dangerous Visions

  • 0

    3 pts: The Islanders / Dream Archipelago / The Evidence
    2 pts: Dangerous Visions / Again Dangerous Visions
    1 pt: Dune (+ Dune Messiah, sounds like)

    (Dune last not because I don't like it but because I listened to it during our first lockdown and it's still pretty fresh)

  • 1

    I like all of these for various reasons. I'll admit I was quietly pulling for Gormenghast but I think it might be best that we didn't choose that one. (I suspect there might have been a lot of drop outs?) I think I prefer not to vote and leave it to the winds of fate - or rather the votes of others. Especially since I'm flaky these days and having just re-engaged, who knows? My intent is to be a contributor again but I don't trust myself. :)

  • 0
    edited January 5
    Taking @BurnAfterRunning ’s ranks of 'well up for' to be 3pts, 'yes' to be 2 pts, and 'whatevs' to be 1 point, we end up with:

    The Islanders - 16 pts
    Dune - 10 pts
    Dangerous Visions - 10 pts.

    So, that seems like a win to me. Even two more votes won't change the result, should anyone else turn up late to the party.

    I'll see if I can scare up my copies and their tables of contents to make a schedule.

    Any objections, let me know.

    EDIT - see below!
  • 0

    Hold up - I've just been checking on this and to my surprise The Dream Archipelago doesn't appear to be as available as I thought, so please don't go and order anything yet until I can confirm these books are available for all.

  • 0
    edited January 5

    Here's what I've discovered, from Amazon, anyway.
    The Islanders is readily available.
    The Dream Archipelago is not available on kindle, except in UK.
    The two above are rather necessary to the concept, I think.

    To these we could add one novel, either The Evidence (which is a recursive mystery novel), which seems to have just been published this year. In print, it's only available in hardback. But it has kindle or audio. If we save this for last, it's possible a paperback version will come out before we get to it.

    Alternatively, we could do The Gradual, which is also a recursive novel about a composer who goes on tour, from what I can gather (though I haven't read it). It's not available in audio, anywhere.

    My big concern is The Dream Archipelago for the kindle readers. If this is a problem, we can default to Dune, which ought not to be a problem.

    Sorry for any inconvenience - I should have checked this first.

    Details:

    The Islanders
    Amazon.com - Print, Audio, or Kindle
    Amazon.co.uk - Print, Audio, or Kindle
    Amazon.ca - Print, Audio, or Kindle

    The Dream Archipelago
    Amazon.com - Audio or paperback (no kindle)
    Amazon.co.uk - Kindle, Audio, or paperback
    Amazon.ca - Audio or paperback (no kindle)

    The Evidence
    Amazon.com - Kindle, Audio, or Hardcover (no soft)
    Amazon.co.uk - Kindle, Audio, or Hardcover
    Amazon.ca - Kindle, Audio, or Hardcover

    The Gradual (another novel, also set in the Dream Archipelago, as an alternative to The Evidence)
    Amazon.com - Kindle or Print (no audio)
    Amazon.co.uk - Kindle or Print (no audio)
    Amazon.ca - Kindle, Paperback (no audio)

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