DrMitch's 2019 reads

3

In 2018 I didn't record what I read. I found myself regretting that. So in 2019, I will keep track.

1: The Annihilation Score (Charles Stross)
I've slipped a few books behind in the Laundry series (which is essentially a take on the Cthulhu mythos crossed with the spy genre crossed with bureaucratic workplace comedy in the British civil service), and I'm not sure why as I really enjoy it. Still, more to read! This one shifts protagonist to the point of view of Mo, wife of Bob the previous antagonist, and presents a deconstructivist take on superheroes in the Laundry universe (in a way which works surprisingly well), along with the King in Yellow. Good stuff.

Comments

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    Like you, I slipped almost to nothing by way of actual reviews in 2018, settling instead for the cheap and easy alternative of just leaving a star rating on Goodreads. A bit lazy, really. It would be a definite step up for me to leave a paragraph here, so thanks for the prompt (and the review, especially as I knew nothing about that series before reading this).

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    I also fell off the review wagon in the second half of the year. I read some cool books (like The Afterlife of George Cartwright ) that I would have liked to share, but was too busy writing other things, and porting my older G+ reviews over here, to review them. But I'll get back on top of them now with the new year, and with new books.

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    2: Cibola Burn (James S.A. Corey)
    Book four of the Expanse series. I'm not sure what to say about this... it's a space thriller, with some hardish SF trappings, good characters, and tropes from other genres. It was an extremely gripping read, and I felt myself hating the villain in his combination of pettiness and fanaticism, and ability to infect others with both.

    There's a formula to the Expanse books so far which keeps me from wanting to read the whole series all at once, but that's an observation rather than a criticism; I definitely plan to carry on reading them. Just not straight away.

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    3: Trigger Warning (Neil Gaiman)

    It's a book of Neil Gaiman short stories. I read many of these in 2017, but I'll post it here as I finished the collection this week. As with Gaiman's other collections, there's a mixture in terms of theme and in terms of quality. The shorter pieces tend to just evoke a single mood, with mixed success.

    But there were more than a few which were very good. Highlights for me were the fractured fairy tale of The Sleeper and the Spindle, the Isle of Skye folk tale that is The Truth is a Cave in The Black Mountains, a Doctor Who story, Nothing O'Clock, the fun of The Thin White Duke which reminds me of Moorcock as well as David Bowie, Click Clack the Rattlebag for a fun horror gimmick, a Vance pastiche in An Invocation of Incuriosity, and another tale featuring Shadow from American Gods in Black Dog. Oh, and a weird Sherlock Holmes tale, The Case of Death and Honey.

    Apart from the highlights I could take or leave it, but typing this I realise there were quite a few highlights.

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    4: The Fifth Season (N.K. Jemisin)

    I was impressed with this. A fantasy novel which is original in its concepts, doesn't drown the reader with dull detail, and is genuinely good. A rarity for me, especially with more recent fantasy books. The concept is a world wracked by earthquakes, and sometimes ruined by a "season" where they get out of hand and create sufficient atmospheric disturbances to bring on a years-long winter. And orogenes- those who have control over the earth, and are feared and hated for the danger of their power.

    It's cleverly and engagingly written, in a style which reminds me a little of Iain M. Banks. It engaged me; the book's the first of a trilogy, and I feel a bit cheated it ended on a cliffhanger, though it did solve other mysteries, But it's pretty relentlessly grim, meaning I'm not likely to read the next right away, though part of me is very tempted.

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    I never review anything. My brain is too non-judgmental. Just because something appeals to me does not mean I should recommend it to others, and because I dislike something doesn't mean I should dissuade others from sampling it. I am fully aware my tastes are not those of most people. See also my inability to plug my own crap. :confused:

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    I think with these I'm trying to give my impressions rather than reviews. Maybe...though it's a thin line between the two.

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    Dr. Mitch - I am envious! I wish I could do stuff like this!

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    I feel like I can talk more about a book than write about a book.

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    5: My latest is the Eighteenth Century, from the Oxford History of Europe series. It's non-fiction, and a collection of essays on different aspects of historical development in, unsurprisingly, 18th century Europe. I enjoyed the read. And I came away enlightened on a century which was more of a gap than it should have been in my historical knowledge.

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    @dr_mitch said:
    There's a formula to the Expanse books so far which keeps me from wanting to read the whole series all at once, but that's an observation rather than a criticism; I definitely plan to carry on reading them. Just not straight away.

    Yup. I feel the same way. I am ready for Cibola Burn. The short stories that go in between the novels, BTW, are pretty solid.

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    6: Lies Sleeping (Ben Aaronovitch)
    The latest in the Rivers of London series about the magical side of modern day London. I love this series, and this book stays on the plateau of quality. It's less self-contained than some others in the series, concluding a plot running in the background of several books, and lots of characters and references dropped in, sometimes without much explanation. But I enjoyed it- it's just definitely a part of a continuing series.

    7: Dark Orbit (Carolyn Ives Gilman)
    I won't try to summarise Dark Orbit as it's a part of our current discussion. It took a while to grip me, but it was always quite interesting, intriguing in its take on perception as a fundamental, and the way one of the two major characters went from being completely inward-focused to working on helping others. The science crossed over into the mystical, but not in an obnoxious way. I'm glad I read it.

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    @dr_mitch said:
    6: Lies Sleeping (Ben Aaronovitch)
    The latest in the Rivers of London series about the magical side of modern day London. I love this series, and this book stays on the plateau of quality. It's less self-contained than some others in the series, concluding a plot running in the background of several books, and lots of characters and references dropped in, sometimes without much explanation. But I enjoyed it- it's just definitely a part of a continuing series.

    Source material for Liminal? How did it influence how your decisions on setting-specific mechanics?

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    The Rivers of London series was definitely one of the primary inspirations for Liminal. The other big one is Neil Gaiman. A big difference between Rivers and Liminal is that Liminal's not got a focus on one particular city or even cities in general as opposed to smaller towns and the countryside.

    All that said, the first Liminal supplement is the London book.
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    edited March 26

    I've been slow in keeping this up to date. So here goes...

    8: Somerled- Hammer of the Norse (Kathleen McPhee)
    A short and journalistic account of Somerled, King of the Isles (the islands off the west coast of Scotland, more or less). And it's a compelling subject, an intrusion of the dark ages, complete with Vikings, into the 12th century, with petty island kingdoms and clashes of cultures. There are also lots of gaps in the historical record, which the book is both open about and speculates about. There are also accounts of the development of the longship in the area, and the treatment of the language of Scottish Gaelic.

    9: Laughing Shall I Die (Tom Shippey)
    More history, this time focusing on the Vikings, from an author best-known for his Tolkien scholarship. And it's both a romantic and unglamourous account. Unglamourous in that it's realistic about the Vikings- they're brutal raiders, and this book strips them of modern attempts at rehabilitation. But romantic in that much of it is based on the sagas.

    And there is something admirable about the Viking ideal of bravery and defiance in the face of death, at the same time as something despicable about their celebration of violence and acute wanton cruelty. The book is honest about both, with some other fun snippets, such as a view of Skaldic poetry (as opposed to the eddas), with its rigid rules, as being something like an error-correcting code, reliable through generations of oral tradition.

    10: The Fall of Gondolin (J.R.R. Tolkien)
    Advanced Tolkien nerdery. The Fall of Gondolin is one of Tolkien's three big stories of the First Age, and part of the Silmarillion- along with the tale of Turin Tarambar and the story of Beren and Luthien. And of the three, this one has by far the most incomplete account in the Silmarillion. This book goes a long way to fill the gap, with an essentially complete earlier version of the story, not completely compatible with later versions such as the Silmarillion, and partial later versions. I enjoyed the early story, and saw a shape of what it would have been with the later accounts.

    Recommended for an Tolkien nerd who loved the Silmarillion and wants more to fill one of the briefly accounted events, which really merits more detail.

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    Hey, someone read a book I recommended and liked it!
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    > @Apocryphal said:
    > Hey, someone read a book I recommended and liked it!

    Yep, Somerled was definitely because of your recommendation. :)
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    edited March 28

    11: A Mission of Gravity (Hal Clement)
    A novel piece of 1950s science fiction concerning a rapidly spinning extremely dense planet with exceptionally high gravity at the poles, and much less extreme gravity (by a factor of hundreds) at the equator. And the centipede-like sentient people of the world, along with the interaction of a group with them with visiting humanity. The appeal here is in the play with physics, and the outlook of the sentients. And humanity gets to be the wise mentors, the aliens with advanced scientific powers.

    I won't say too much here as it's a book club read...it's also a book I'd never have read were it not for the club, and I'm happy I did. Not only that, but I managed to read in time for the discussion.

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    12: Brief Cases (Jim Butcher)
    I enjoy the Dresden Files series. Kitchen sink urban fantasy with appealing recurring characters. So I enjoyed this collection of short stories. Some were fan service, but still fun, others were darker or did more clever things. And it scratched by Dresden Files itch until the next novel.

    13: Last Act in Palmyra (Lindsey Davis)
    Another book in a series... there seems to be a pattern to my reading this year. And this series involves the activities of a hardboiled private investigator in the Roman Empire in the time of Vespasian. This particular novel involves an acting troupe and Asia Minor. I loved it, and the blend of the cynical and romantic, which is something in the whole series.

    14: Hiero's Journey (Sterling E. Lanier)
    A psionic warrior priest goes on a quest in a land filled with giant mutant animals and an *evil* organisation wanting to control everything five thousand years after a nuclear apocalypse. His companions include an intelligent psionic bear and an escaped princess. For me it was cartoon fun. The inspiration of Gamma World?

    Another book club read I wouldn't normally have read. And for some reason I was initially expecting something along the lines of Canticle for Leibowitz. This was different!
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    @dr_mitch said:
    13: Last Act in Palmyra (Lindsey Davis)
    Another book in a series... there seems to be a pattern to my reading this year. And this series involves the activities of a hardboiled private investigator in the Roman Empire in the time of Vespasian. This particular novel involves an acting troupe and Asia Minor. I loved it, and the blend of the cynical and romantic, which is something in the whole series.

    Ah, the Falco books. i've got them all, and loved them. The series starts off hard-boiled detective, ends up romantic soap opera with added corpses. (The scorpion incident in Palmyra gets referenced a few times in later books.) I've not read any of her later "daughter of Falco" books: i might have to give them a go at some time.

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    I have read several of the Falco series and quite enjoyed them!

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    Yes, I've heard everything gets more soapish in the Falco books, but I don't think that's an issue for me. I have the next couple lined up.

    My next couple are:

    1. Shadow of the Torturer (Gene Wolfe)
      Our slow read! And for me it's a fascinating book of many layers. A difficult book without being a difficult read. I'm getting a lot out of it this time through.

    2. Nemesis Games (James S.A. Corey)
      Expanse book 5! More hardish science fiction space opera. A fun read, and this book actually veered away from the formula of the previous books in the series, both in terms of the set-up and the use of characters. It started off looking like an almost soap opera delving into the pasts of the crew who are the main characters in the series, but ended up something more interesting and different. It resolved one plot arc, and set up a mystery for the next book, and I'm hooked enough to go on to read it.

    This year seems to be my year of reading lots of books in series.

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