Doing any recreational reading? v.5.8

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bratboy so sorry I schooled you
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I am reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I should finish sometime in the next decade.
Just finished all the Ian Fleming James Bond books. In some cases the only similarity between the movie and the book is the title. "Quantum Of Solace" for example is simply a story told by a dinner party host to Bond about a cheating wife.

A third of the way through "The History of the Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire". I may never finish it.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I've been reading a crapload of Dean Koontz books i got at the thrift store. I also just downloaded Midian Unmade:Tales of Clive Barkers Nightbreed by Nassise.
mmaverick my steady systematic decline
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I've been reading a lot of pulpy fantasy/sci-fi, because it's pretty difficult to read hard sci-fi, or anything "thinky" at 3 AM while I'm sitting in a siding for 2 hours waiting for a train to go by.


On of the latest series has been "the demon cycle". It's an interesting story, and I've been enjoying it, but jesus christ is the author misogynistic.

He's made a great world, but you can really tell that the author is an uncouth individual.
user Stupid cockwomble
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Yeah, I gave up on Heinlein, too.
mmaverick my steady systematic decline
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I've also been reading a lot of Sanderson's stuff. It's an enjoyable read, and he's a machine when it comes to writing.
mmaverick my steady systematic decline
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user posted:
Yeah, I gave up on Heinlein, too.



I can pretend Heinlein is a product of his environment. Peter V Brett is just a prick. I've actually really noticed it in his last book, because it's become obvious that he's noticed his critics, and is trying to pretend the problems don't exist, but by the way he writes women, it's really apparent that he just doesn't realize that they are people.
mmaverick my steady systematic decline
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As an example, one of the main female characters "wets herself" by spitting on her hand and rubbing it on her vagina prior to being raped so that she would enjoy her first time more.
dv
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TOS
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stalingrad, beevor

a great book

Last edited by TOS on Tue Aug 04, 2015 10:02 pm.

Geesie Couldn't hit it sideways
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Savage Inequalities

Although "recreational" is probably not a good term here.
TOS
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i was reading "days of destruction, days of revolt"

but it was just too damn depressing so i had to put it down
Geesie Couldn't hit it sideways
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TOS posted:
i was reading "days of destruction, days of revolt"

but it was just too damn depressing so i had to put it down


Tangentially, read this, it's exceptionally insightful: http://thebaffler.com/salvos/to-the-precinct-station
arkayn Aaarrrggghhhh
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mmaverick posted:
I've also been reading a lot of Sanderson's stuff. It's an enjoyable read, and he's a machine when it comes to writing.


Brandon?
mmaverick my steady systematic decline
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mmaverick my steady systematic decline
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He's mentioned cuckholding 3-5 times so far. 2 women are pregnant and neither of them by their husbands because women are all like that.
The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Prachett.

Let me say first that I've been in love with Tiffany Aching since she first appeared in Pratchett's Discworld series. While considerably more competent than I will EVER be despite her youth, in the hands of the master craftsman Pratchett I think that she will be an eternal character that people will be discovering--and also falling in love with--centuries from now.

That being said: like much of the Discworld series The Shepherd's Crown is VERY much part of a series. I suppose that it could be read independently of the rest of the Discworld series but there will be a considerable loss to the reader who does this. In fact because there are quite a few characters who appear with little explanation in THIS book who have had various roles elsewhere within the Discworld series I would highly recommend reading ALL 38 of the other Discworld novels before reading The Shepherd's Crown. Even being limited to just the other 4 Tiffany Aching novels within the Discworld series as preface to this one would do the reader a great injustice.

BUT...this novel IS flawed. As Rob Wilkins--the gentleman who worked on the last several books with Pratchett--mentioned in his afterword: Pratchett's work style was to write most of the basic plot initially then to skip around honing down details in sections of the book afterwards, then sometimes over his protests his publisher's editors would tear the text from his hands in order to get it to press. Sadly though likely: this involved process was cut short by Pratchett's death from complications due to Alzheimer's Disease in March 2015, so while there are a good start and middle and an OK ending to the novel there are linking parts between those sections which seem unfinished and not adequately tidy (and which Wilkins left "as is" without substantial changes from his editing).

STILL: any Pratchett is a pleasure to read. It begins mostly with the death of a pivotal character in the Discworld series--what? Read it yourself--which results in world changes which drastically affect Tiffany by bringing again into Discworld an old enemy with revenge on Tiffany at the forefront. Naturally there are many complications (per usual with any Discworld novel). While it wouldn't be a particular spoiler to say that in the end Tiffany is victorious, most of the reading pleasure is her somewhat complicated route to get there.

If you already are a Discworld fan then don't hesistate to pick up The Shepherd's Crown (and read it when appropriate).

If you haven't started the Discworld series: what are you waiting for? Do yourself a favor and pick up the series. I do recommend reading them in publication order. While there are a number of these books like Moving Pictures which are basically one-offs within the overall series, all of them have moments which link them together. A particular fan favorite is when DEATH makes an appearance because...well, it's complicated. Read the series to find out why.
DEyncourt posted:
[snip]
If you haven't started the Discworld series: what are you waiting for? Do yourself a favor and pick up the series. I do recommend reading them in publication order.
[snip]

Please note that while VISUALLY the above list omits Pyramids which is book 7 in the overall series, if you click on the Reaper Man cover in slot 7 it actually is linked to the site's page for Pyramids (though again the cover displayed on that page is for the American edition of Reaper Man. I believe that the cover in slot 11 is for the British edition for Reaper Man--isn't it much better?).
The End of All Things by John Scalzi.

This is the latest book from Scalzi on the "Old Man War" series. As with the other books in this series it is highly recommended that you read the previous 5 novels in publication order--Old Man's War, Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe's Tale and The Human Division--before reading this one.

This book is actually a collection of 4 novellas. Here you will find a number of familiar characters that have made appearances (if not played key roles) in previous books plus a number of new characters having to deal with the diplomatic intrigues between the alien's Conclave and both parts of humanity's world: the Earth and the Colonial Union.

I guess a complaint could be lodged in that Scalzi's aliens act "too human", but on the other hand: how else would they act in a galaxy where power is deeply linked with prestige? In counter to this complaint I would suggest a close reading of part of the second of the 4 novellas where one of the aliens describes to another how her race's children are raised and how this process affects and is affected by her society.

Scalzi's writing is always intriguing and my only disappointment is that RIGHT NOW I have no new Scalzi to read. I look forward to upcoming stories/novels in the Old Man's War series (while this book concludes satisfactorily there is considerable room for further stories).
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I just finished reading I Am Raymond Washington by Zach Fortier. The author is a former cop that wrote several books about his experiences. This one i particular is about one of the 2 founding members of the Crips. It's actually a pretty good read.
The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross.

This is the latest of the Laundry Files series of novels to appear in paperback form (here is a list though do note that this list includes novellas and short stories--Concrete Jungle, Pimpf, Down on the Farm, Equioid and Overtime--which can be found online).

The Laundry is super-secret agency in Her Majesty's Goverment that deals with the inadvertent mixture of advanced computer science (which grew out of real magic) with Lovecraftian mythos. It got its name around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century when it WAS located above a Chinese laundry in London, and although it has changed locations many times since then that name stuck.

Our hero, Bob Howard, was lassoed into the Laundry when working on a computer project WAY above my level of expertise (but maybe not beyond matt's--hey, matt, have you ever
<YOU WILL CEASE THIS LINE OF QUESTIONING>
Um, sir, yes, sir)
Uhhh...where was I? Anyway, a project that would have, if completed, would have resulted in flattening his neighborhood about a mile in radius around him. Basically he was given the "choice" of joining the Laundry or having a lobotomy.

It is now about a decade later and this novel leads with a statement from Bob's wife, Mo (short for Dominque): "Everybody knows that vampires don't exist."

As an illustration of Stross' mixture of science and magic, let me try to describe his basilisk gun. What the gun does is magically change about 1% of the carbon atoms in its target to silicon. The energy required to make this change is drawn from the matter surrounding the transformed carbon atoms, and the breakage of molecular bonds due to the changes results in a smouldering statue. Available--after filling out the appropriate Laundry paperwork and taking the necessary Laundry tests--from the Laundry app site! For iPhones only.

Yes, sorry, this is another book review for a book late in its series. While one could read this independently of the rest of the series, I do highly recommend reading the previous novels because Stross is an entertaining writer. In the meantime, I do have those shorter stories to read (having been unaware of them until typing this).
The Peripheral by William Gibson.

This book is a considerable break from Gibson's recent "semi-series" of novels involving Hollis Henry and Cayce Pollard which take place in the VERY near-future exploring some possibilities of recently created tech like Google Glass.

The Peripheral also has a rather complex narrative. Let me see if I can sort it out.

Flynne Fisher is living about 2040-2050 in a semi-rural area in the American South that is sufficiently far (or equidistance) from any large city centers such that none of them could be called the local City. The economy has tanked for average people largely due to factory automation such that she and her brother Burton--a crippled war veteran who has been given by the VA a semi-exoskeleton to replace some of the functions of his missing limbs--are living with their mother, taking on online oddjobs. Burton has grabbed one such job in which he believes he is running inside a game some daily chores for some rich guy who doesn't want to bother with such, but he is called away to a nearby town for a few days and so asks Flynne to fill in for him. After a brief negotiation (involving tens of thousands of dollars so figure something in the range of 50-75 times deflation for dollars between now and this story's then), she agrees.

When Flynne enters the game she finds that she has been given the task of flying an aggressive bot in the form of a copter mostly chasing away paparazzi bots from the 53rd to 56th floors of a tall building. She is good at her job (having done such duties before) so most of the time she bored and she peeks into the building in between almost automatically chasing away the paparazzi (at least in between the times that the windows are frosted so she cannot see anything inside). Over the hours of patrolling she figures that the floors that she is "protecting" are all one huge condo belonging to one young woman with a host of interior bots doing maintenance, rearranging furniture for a party, etc., so Flynne thinks that this must be some futuristic game setting since such capabilities are beyond what she knows of tech of her time.

On her second day on the job, Flynne observes that woman being murdered.

While her game bot is flying up to her guarding stories, Flynne notices an odd bot rapidly climbing up the side of her building. That bot stations itself just above the balcony of the condo she is guarding on the 58th story so Flynne figures that she can mostly ignore it. Having dispensed with the paparazzi and only being bothered by an occasional interloper, she goes back to observing the occupants. This time she sees that the woman is entertaining only one man. After going through the usual things that a couple alone might do, the man leads the woman draped with only a large scarf onto the balcony. They kiss and he whispers something into her ear, then goes back inside the condo. Apparently the door's lock was loud enough for the woman to hear it engage, so she turns to the door and starts banging on it.

At this point some greyish things emerge from that bot stationed above the balcony. They attach themselves to the woman who struggles with them to the point where she falls off the balcony. Flynne figures that she fell about 10-15 stories before the grey goo that enveloped the woman disperses, leaving only the scarf to float down blown away by the wind.

Having never seen anything like this, Flynne is horrified. She tries to call up the usual game resources--recordings being a usual in-game feature--but discovers that nothing seems to be there other than her bot controls.

IN THE MEANTIME (and intersperse with the above in alternating chapters): Wilf Netherton is a self-described publicist living in London of about 2120. He is living a relative good life on the periphery of the mostly idle super-rich since the Jackpot began about 40 years before when the environment finally started to turn awfully bad and killed off about 80% of humanity, but the remainder managed to mostly repair the environmental damage with breakthroughs in automation (along with that reduction in human population too).

He has also learned that his now-off-again girlfriend has disappeared mysteriously.

I'll leave it to Gibson to tie together these seemingly separate time lines.
ukimalefu Never had a facebook account
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20000 leagues under the sea - Jules Verne
DukeofNuke FREE RADICAL
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You know that refers to distance, not depth, right?
ukimalefu Never had a facebook account
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DukeofNuke posted:
You know that refers to distance, not depth, right?


I do know that, and they did it in a submarine, under the sea. What's your point?
user Stupid cockwomble
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I thought it was the number of extraordinary gentlemen.
Pity The Nation, by Robert Fisk. A reporter's account of the Lebanon civil war with historical background of that nation. I am very fond of Lebanon and its people and I always wanted an insider's perspective of the sides involved.
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ukimalefu posted:
DukeofNuke posted:
You know that refers to distance, not depth, right?


I do know that, and they did it in a submarine, under the sea. What's your point?


You're my pal. I don't want you to look ignorant in front of all these people.
You like science fiction, especially hard science fiction?

Go get Seveneves by Neal Stephenson NOW.

What can you say about a book that begins on its first page with the Moon blowing up?

While astronomers never figure out what exactly happened to the Moon, the best theory they have is that it had an encounter with a primordial black hole that had formed shortly after the Big Bang. While there is a proposition that the 1908 Tunguska event might have been caused by such, that earlier event was due to a black hole that was so small that an electron microscope would be required to "see" it, while the Moon was cracked into 7 huge pieces (with innumerable smaller ones) by another, slower-moving primordial black hole perhaps with an event horizon in the range of micrometers wide. Being not so massive that this black hole drastically disturbed the orbit of the Moon--or rather its fragments--around the Earth, at first astronomers relaxed, figuring that eventually the Moon would reform.

On the other hand, one astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson (actually that character is not named that but given his general description he may as well have been), does the hard math and figures out that the fragments will continue to collide with each other until eventually the remnants of the Moon will form a ring around the Earth. The bad news is that in the process of being broken into those smaller chunks a small but significant percentage of them will eventually rain down upon the Earth.

So what's the problem? Well, you know how when a meteor hits the Earth's atmosphere that sometimes it can leave a glowing trail behind it? That's because that meteor has hit the atmosphere at such speeds that the ablation of that meteor heats it to the point that it and fragments left behind do get red- or even white-hot. Of course that's only a tiny speck of the sky that lasts only for a fraction of a second so even though high temperatures are generated even sizable random meteors will produce little overall heat.

But what if you multiply that by quadrllions? The astrophysicist figures that we on Earth have a few years before enough of the Moon's remnants start continuously falling through the Earth's atmosphere, becoming what he calls the "White Sky" completely covering the Earth's heavens with such streaks and turning the Earth's sky into a virtual oven. And that because that fragmentation will continuing to increase, that "Hard Rain" will last for thousands of years.

Fortunately--since this story takes place in the near future--the B612 Foundation/Blue Origin (again, enough of a description that they are unmistakable), these guys had captured a small nickel-iron asteroid about the size of a football field and managed to maneuver it so that it was attached to the ISS. It had already been placed leading the entire structure of the ISS in its orbit, so except for an occasional straggler that might come in at an odd angle that asteroid already had been serving as a "cowcatcher" to absorb nearly all such head-on impacts.

A crash program is begun on Earth to send up to Izzy (as the ISS is known through most of the book) more people and supplies. There are small, lightweight craft being launched such that two of them could be attached with a cable and then spun around their common center of gravity to temporarily provide the inhabitants with gravity, though most will be set up as singletons or triads or heptads (7 craft with one in the center surrounded by the other 6) in order to be easily maneuverable to avoid the larger Moon fragments. There are experiments to inflate translucent balloons that will serve as farming areas.

But, of course, there are LOTS of problems....

Normally I would wait until I've finished a book before posting such reviews, but even though I'm still only about 2/3rds the way through, I trust that Stephenson will finish this book in a satisfactory way.
I've finished Seveneves. And, yes, Stephenson finished it that was satisfactory for me. While the novel's end is the conclusion of a series of events leading up to it, it is done in such a way that I am left with wanting more. I suspect that Stephenson will not be writing a sequel to Seveneves, but I wouldn't be unhappy if he did.
A follow-up to "Dead Witch Walking" reviewed here:

I have finished "The Witch with No Name", Kim Harrison's 13th and final novel of her "The Hollows" series.

First: a small apology to Harrison. In my earlier review I had a minor quibble in that the timeline within the series seemed to be moving with the publication dates of the various novels (which did happen over about 11 years). On the other I should have noted that Harrison did keep a tight timeline within ALL of her "The Hollows" series so even if the elapsed time wasn't explicitly mentioned (sometimes for books at a time), in context she did add enough detail that a timeline could be constructed. In any case in this book the heroine Rachel Morgan explicitly says that it has been about 4 years since the events in "Dead Witch Walking" so if you use that book's 2003 publication date as the base then "The Witch with No Name" takes place in 2008 ("Walking" being placed around Halloween of that year and "No Name" taking place in springtime). So please mentally erase my "minor quibble" in my earlier review.

On the other hand, there does seem to be something of an editing problem with "No Name". It took me a while to figure it out but I think that Harrison's editor had told her that she not spend as much time and effort on scenic descriptions. After all the hardcover edition is 433 pages long, so I think that Harrison's usual descriptions probably could have added another 150 pages. Mind you: this is NOT the case where Morgan spent most of her time in locations that had been previously established in the series and so Harrison could kinda-sorta skip on THOSE details, but Morgan does enter many new (to her, at least) scenes. Personally I used Harrison's descriptive detail to help sink into the story, but in "No Name" this lack of scenic detail made me a bit resistant to "get into" the book.

My earlier predicted assessment that eventually Morgan becomes a key person in the fate of her world is finally played out in "No Name". Personally I had my doubts that Harrison could work out the details of how Morgan could accomplish this--even at about the 90% point in "No Name"--but at the end I was satisfied with the outcome.

So, yes, I DO recommend reading "The Hollows" series (at least if this sort of fantasy writing fits with you). I strongly recommend reading the books in order as the series truly is a series so picking up any book in the middle of the series will likely leave the reader with some holes of details and missing/added characters (Harrison's own list of books and short stories for "The Hollows" can be read here but do read my advice in the third paragraph in my earlier review). It is the reason why my above review lacks practically ANY details from "No Name" because in order to explain even the start of the novel would require filling in details from earlier novels, so please read the series.
TOS
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the shining, by stephen king

i recently re-watched the movie, in addition to room 237, the documentary about the crazy-ass conspiracy theories that people have about that movie (ranging from the movie actually being about the holocaust to it containing clues dropped by kubrick about him faking the moon landings)

i have a pet obsession with kubrick and his approach to filmmaking, particularly is truly astonishing attention to detail (rumour has it that during the making of the shining he'd call stephen king in the middle of the night to ask if he believed in god; or that during 2001 he'd ask the actress playing the "space stewardess", a non-speaking part, to explain her views about the meaning of life before he'd let the cameras roll)

i also know that king was always seriously disappointed in the movie because he said it wasn't scary at all

so i'm reading the source material to see if it's any different, and while i'm only halfway through it definitely is different -- and yes, much more scary

but truth be told it's not nearly as scary or engrossing as his later work, particularly the stand and "it"
The Drafter by Kim Harrison.

This looks to be the first book of a new series from Harrison (as it IS subtitled "The Peri Reed Chronicles Book 1").

Peri Reed is the entitled drafter (she is only one of several drafters mentioned who actually appears in this book, although there are perhaps only a few hundred possible drafters in the world). Drafters were discovered during the 1960's by the CIA, having been children who had led very disrupted lives (there being the question of which--that disruption or the drafting ability--led to the other). They have the special psychic power of being able to "redraft" very recent history of up to about a minute in the past and during that period a drafter can recall the events that had happened within that alternate period of time AND thus act accordingly to counteract what had happened. BUT as soon as the drafting period ends the drafter will become completely unaware of that draft (with some additional consequences as outlined below). With the exception of the anchors described below everyone else within a draft simply are surprised by how the drafter could anticipate their actions (which is partially why drafters are also trained in martial arts and with weapons).

Around that same time it was also discovered that there are some people who are called anchors. Unlike everyone else when an anchor undergoes a draft performed by a drafter, an anchor has something of a counter psychic ability that will allow them to recall everything that happens including what had happened during that period which was essentially erased for everyone else by the draft. An anchor is limited in that he must have at least line-of-sight contact with the drafter AND be in relatively close proximity in order to be fully aware of the draft (so being separated by a thin wall without a window from a drafter will not enable an anchor to recall a draft). There are perhaps a few dozen or so anchors for every drafter.

There is an additional consequence for drafters: their memories can be erased for some unpredictable length before the draft which can make anchors doubly important. Sometimes that erasure will merely cover the period of the draft, but other times the erasure can be over months or even years prior to the draft. Anchors must be very trusted by drafters since a drafter can find himself suddenly in a situation and location for which he will have absolutely no recall of getting there, so the anchor will have to fill in the details for the drafter (such as where they parked their car, after which the anchor can fill in such things as the fact that the drafter had changed his home address during that period he has forgotten).

OR, at least, this is what Peri Reed believes at the opening of the novel which is set in 2030. She and her anchor Jack are sent on a mission by Opti (the super-secret branch within the US government to take advantage of drafters) to get a supposed list of companies which are being set up to release a biological warfare agent which will have the effect of poisoning rice against the countries of Southeast Asia (and thus possibly killing or starving hundreds of millions of people). They are disturbed by a guard wandering through the offices inside of which Jack was attempting to log in to get that list. The guard is initially cowed by Peri's martial arts, but another person enters the office who gets into an argument with Peri and Jack, distracting them from watching the guard who sneaks over to where his gun was knocked away and then shoots Peri, forcing her to draft.

The reason for the argument is confusing for Peri even while she kills that guard (her "policy" is that she will kill anyone who tried to kill her pre-draft). She fully believed that bio-agent story, but that other person was saying that the REAL reason why she and Jack were there was to get a list of dirty Opti agents who were using drafting to silence those people who were trying to reveal those dirty Opti agents AND that SHE was at the head of that list. Jack tells that other person to give him the list but to quickly hide himself under one of the desks in the office because her draft was about to end.

The first question that Peri reflexively asks at the end of any of her drafts is "What is today's date?" (because she has no recollection of getting to this office with body of the dead guard at her feet). She learns that she has lost about 6 weeks of her memory. At least Peri recalls Jack as they had been working (and living) together for over a year (well, less 6 weeks for HER).

It is a promising beginning using a completely different psychic premise from any that I can recall. So it is with some sadness that I must report that ultimately I was unhappy with the story. Between the double- and triple-agents double-crossing each other or their agencies, and the supposedly super-secret agency which a LOT of people know about and which is super profilgate with their resources (both in terms of agents and just gunfire), I began to lose interest about 250 pages in this 432-page novel. I did finish and while I have SOME interest in what happens next to Peri Reed, I'm not sure if I will automatically pick up book 2.
Bible and Sword. Barbara Tuchman's first book. It details the relationship between Britain and Palestine from the legend of Joseph of Arimithea and the grail, to the Balfour declaration.
dv
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Ribtor posted:
Bible and Sword. Barbara Tuchman's first book. It details the relationship between Britain and Palestine from the legend of Joseph of Arimithea and the grail, to the Balfour declaration.

That one's actually on my shelf. Lemme know if its any good.
dv posted:
Ribtor posted:
Bible and Sword. Barbara Tuchman's first book. It details the relationship between Britain and Palestine from the legend of Joseph of Arimithea and the grail, to the Balfour declaration.

That one's actually on my shelf. Lemme know if its any good.


It's fine. Highly readable but some knowledge of early Brit (Roman-Saxon-Norman) history would help.
TOS
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dv posted:
Ribtor posted:
Bible and Sword. Barbara Tuchman's first book. It details the relationship between Britain and Palestine from the legend of Joseph of Arimithea and the grail, to the Balfour declaration.

That one's actually on my shelf. Lemme know if its any good.


it's barbara tuchman, that's all you need to know
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TOS posted:
the shining, by stephen king

i recently re-watched the movie, in addition to room 237, the documentary about the crazy-ass conspiracy theories that people have about that movie (ranging from the movie actually being about the holocaust to it containing clues dropped by kubrick about him faking the moon landings)

i have a pet obsession with kubrick and his approach to filmmaking, particularly is truly astonishing attention to detail (rumour has it that during the making of the shining he'd call stephen king in the middle of the night to ask if he believed in god; or that during 2001 he'd ask the actress playing the "space stewardess", a non-speaking part, to explain her views about the meaning of life before he'd let the cameras roll)

i also know that king was always seriously disappointed in the movie because he said it wasn't scary at all

so i'm reading the source material to see if it's any different, and while i'm only halfway through it definitely is different -- and yes, much more scary

but truth be told it's not nearly as scary or engrossing as his later work, particularly the stand and "it"

Wasp nest yet?
Ancient Shores (1996) and Thunderbird (2015) by Jack McDevitt.

These novels are part of a (now) series which is completely separate from McDevitt's series with Alex Benedict/Chase Kolpath and with Priscilla Hutchins.

There is a considerable discrepancy between the novels in that both are set within their times of publication despite the fact that in terms of their common internal timeline Thunderbird begins within a month of the ending of Ancient Shores, so there is quite a bit of change in human technology between these novels. Just an example: there are characters using FAX machines and cell phones in Ancient Shores, while some of those same people are using smartphones with built-in GPS in Thunderbird. But ignore this problem. I'm sure that McDevitt's intention was to place these novels in a sort of timeless "now". I'm also sure that his follow-up novel will have tech that will be current for whenever THAT book is published.

The locale for both novels is centered near the northeast corner of North Dakota right along the Canadian border.

In Ancient Shores Tom Lasker is a farmer who is preparing his farm for the upcoming winter when he comes upon a curious object that is partially uncovered by his tractor in the middle of one of his fields. Along with his teenaged sons he begins to uncover the rest of the object only to discover that somehow there is 60-foot sailboat below that top end of the foldable mast that he first found. Being along the Canadian borders he figures that perhaps that someone in the criminal underworld in Canada picked his farm to bury what should be a sizable purchase from tax collectors, but he cannot understand how this might have been done without him noticing as he has lived on his farm all of his 40-or-so years and his father had owned the farm for another 20 years before that, so perhaps dating back to Prohibition? There is also the odd problem that the boat looks so NEW as if it might have been buried for much less than a month as there are no signs of rot that should have been evident in anything buried for the decades that Lasker suspects.

After making a splash on the local news and after that the yacht had been unearthed for a few days, there are now lights that glow along the railing of the main deck. This glowing turns "on" at soon as it gets dark enough during evening twilight and lasts all night until morning twilight. There are no obvious solar panels or switches (light-sensitive or otherwise) to be found.

Being somewhat isolated, Lasker asks for advice from an old friend, Max Collingwood, who lives down in Fargo. Collingwood is the owner of a small aviation firm which in part restores vintage WWII aircraft which is how they met years ago when Lasker was shopping for a small plane and Collingwood's warbirds caught his eye (though he opted for a more standard and affordable modern plane). Collingwood agrees to fly up to take a look and after thrashing through some of the possibilities he persuades Lasker to let him take a sample of the sail back to Fargo in order to try to determine how old the yacht is.

Back in Fargo Collingwood contacts Dr. April Cannon, a chemist working for a small chemical analysis firm. He explains the situation to her--noting that, yes, this material from THAT boat that has been in the news--and she says that she should be able to get a rough date. Actually she is unable to do so because the material of the sail is not any of the expected synthetics nor is it made from linen or hemp or cotton. After some virtual hair-pulling Cannon eventually figures out that it isn't even found on our (current) periodic table but is made entirely of what would be element 162. She explains to Collingwood about the possibility that further along the periodic table that there might be "islands of stability" far beyond uranium where elements might last longer than half-lives which are as short as microseconds. She also says that there was no detectable radiation in the sample he gave her. She is also desperate to see the yacht herself in order to try out some ideas.

After they fly up and with the Laskers' permission, Cannon scrapes some material from various parts of the yacht. She also spots some splinters of wood that are entwined with some of the loops of rope and with such she hopes to get a date for the boat. She also notices some...curiosities: there are parts of the yacht that normally would be bolted together in any modern sailboat like the mast to the deck, but instead these parts seem to be "grown" together as if they were just one part.

Back in her lab Cannon determines that ALL of her samples from the boat are made of element 162. She also gets a determination of the age of those wood splinters: about 10,000 years old, AND they are from spruce trees that are no longer native to North Dakota BUT they could have grown along the shoreline of Lake Agassiz before it drained away following the end of the last ice age.

After she explains her findings to the Laskers and Collingwood, Cannon dismisses the idea that they should be calling in "experts". After all: because this is basically a new discovery for modern man there simply are NO experts. If anything, she IS the world’s leading expert (and, privately, she worries that she might get turned out of this discovery by more highly-ranked scientists).

Mind you: most of the above is covered in more detail in the first 75 pages of the 372 pages of Ancient Shores and I haven’t gotten to the meat of the story.

There are mentions of past events from Ancient Shores that in part explains what happens in Thunderbird so I do recommend reading them in order. While there are preliminary explorations during the latter half of Ancient Shores--think of the initial discovery of Frederick Pohl’s Gateway though with a much more limited palette of destinations--they are done more extensively in Thunderbird.

Throughout both books there are mundane parts that are relatively remote from these astounding discoveries. At first I was somewhat put off by such, but latter I realized that yes, the rest of the world does continue on DESPITE such world-altering discoveries.

Also note that there is a strong hint at the end of Thunderbird that marks where McDevitt probably will go for the NEXT novel in this series. There is no title or publication date for that next novel.
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian.

This IS the source novel for the movie of the same name. I have NOT seen the movie (except for bits and pieces here and there) so I do not know how much of the novels are depicted in the movie. Having read this, I have looked through my cable listings but this movie has stopped being shown (when it felt like as recently as a half-year ago the movie was almost unavoidable while channel-surfing).

This book is the first of twenty-one novels by O'Brian dealing with the latter part of the naval career of Jack Aubrey with his friend, Dr. Stephen Maturin. "latter part" because while there are mentions of Aubrey's days as a deckhand as a teen and as a midshipman and finally as a lieutenant, this novel begins with Lt. Aubrey being stuck on the island of Minorca (which was being held by Great Britain in 1801) awaiting his next duties. Being aware that there are many political machinations behind any advancement in the Royal Navy and realizing that he had few political backers (aside from his father, a General in the Army where he would have little influence over things naval), Aubrey had pretty much settled into perhaps spending the rest of the current war with France and Spain watching from the sidelines when he gets a letter from the Navy congratulating him on his promotion to captain and to the command of the brig, Sophie. The rest of the novel deals with "Lucky" Jack Aubrey's career as Master and Commander of the Sophie. Aubrey does learn a bit after his promotion about the probable reason for his promotion to his captaincy: he finds upon visiting the Admiral for the Mediterranean fleet that the admiral has married--his second--the woman who as a teen once taught Aubrey "maths" when he was even younger.

Do note: this novel is very littered with lots of sailing jargon. I have no idea how accurate any of it is--having absolutely no experience myself--AND there is VERY little explanation of it so this is not a book one could use to gain ANY knowledge towards sailing in general or for a 3-masted ship specifically. On the other hand, there is enough about life aboard such a vessel and also life away from such that it should keep most people interested, so just let the sailing terms wash past.

For example: again, I cannot say how accurate this was for the period, but I was rather surprised by how very mercenary the various navies were. When Captain Aubrey captures his first ship, one of the first things on his mind is the breakdown of the prize money to be awarded to him and his crew: 3/8th going to the captain (with one of those eighths going to the Admiralty), 1/8th to his lieutenants, 1/8th to the other officers and the doctor (Dr. Maturin having signed up for that duty), 1/8th for the marines, and the remaining 1/4th to the rest of the crew. AND how mightly disappointed they were to find that the original crew of the ship were being held captive and were so very grateful at being released. Considering that the total was about £4000 (when £20 was an excellent YEARLY salary), one can understand how such greed might have had weird influences.

I did like this enough that I am now about halfway through the second Aubrey/Maturin novel, Post Captain, and am enjoying it just as much.
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