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The Turn by Kim Harrison (2017).

TL;DR: a MOSTLY (see below) satisfying prequel to the Hallows series which featured Rachel Morgan as their primary character. Morgan makes no appearance here as it pre-dates her birth by about a decade, give-or-take, although a handful of various characters in that chronologically-later series make some appearances. I recommend reading The Turn AFTER reading the Hallows series.

The story here focuses on the Turn which I described in the 8th paragraph of my second link above, although this novel clears up a lot of details.

The primary reason for the push for genetic research is the effort by the elves to save themselves from the genetic damage they got from the demons in their war for the Ever-after. This basically took up practically all scientific research though significantly hampered by a lack of general technological knowhow of humanity.

The novel opens in pre-Turn 1963 with Trisk (short for Felecia Eloytrisk Cambri) appearing at a rather exclusive meet-n-greet session (AKA a meat-market) where recently graduated Ph.D.s are attempting to court job offers from a number of tech firms with the best genetics plum jobs being offered by NASA (the National Association of Scientific Advancement) to work at the Kennedy Center in Florida (um, maybe this got funding from Joe Kennedy, JFK's father). Despite an exemplary research career behind her she faces three strikes against her:
1) being female which on top of the general sexism of the 1960's Trisk had the additional elven burden of being expected to get pregnant ASAP which would end any possibility of professional advancement in any field much less in her primary field of genetics, and
2) being a dark elf (having the complete package of dark hair and dark eyes and a darker-hued skin) and thus lacking the physical advantages of the "ideal" elves with their blond (or lighter) hair, blue or grey eyes, and pale to almost-white skin, and
3) being from relatively poor family, though her father--her mother having died long ago--had made huge financial sacrifices just to get her a slot at the meet-n-greet.

None of these problems are facing Kal (short for Trenton Lee Kalamack) who has taken full advantage of his family's reputation. Trisk had long resented Kal for being a cheater because she saw him cheating from her test in 3rd grade BUT being the dark elf Trisk had to take all the blame of being the cheat.

While Trisk watches Kal being fawned over by a recruiter from NASA, her resentment boils over and she basically accuses Kal of being academically lazy and being an inferior intellect. This gets Kal's goat and their shouting match escalates to the point where Kal casts a spell at Trisk which gets deflected from her by another spell from Trisk's friend Quen.

While being somewhat satisfied that Kal's anger basically stopped the NASA rep from making an offer to Kal, Trisk realizes that that whole display in front of everyone probably screwed up ALL of her chances as well. BUT late in the evening when nearly everyone else had gone off to parties being held by the various recruiting firms Trisk gets approached by one of the elders of the elves. He makes her an offer which she cannot refuse: she is to go to a HUMAN genetics firm in Sacramento to basically spy on them in order to make sure that nothing they are doing there threatens the elves. Trisk is to well-compensated for her spying there AND she will be allowed to continue her own genetics researches.

Trisk's...<ahem> Dr. Cambri's story then continues 3 years after that meet-n-greet when she is celebrating the fact that all of her tests involving her drought-resistant tomato have been successful to the point that the press is already lauding it as the savior of the third world.

As I've mentioned before, I think that Harrison is very good at her scenic descriptions, though The Turn is somewhat halfway between her earlier Hallows books and "No Name" in that there are some locations which she provides a lot of details and others which are quite sparse without much reason behind why some get the former and some the latter treatment.

AND some of the meetings with some of those characters who appear in The Hallows series are rather contrived.

I suppose that the lack of recognition and knowledge by SOME of the characters shared by The Turn and The Hallows series could be explained by just a natural secretiveness or simple reluctance to talk that many people have.

So not without some flaws, but none serious enough which stops me from recommending The Turn, especially for anyone who had read the Hallows series.
Anyone in the US and Canada and over 13 in age interested in getting a free ebook of John Scalzi's "Old Man War"? Click here and sign up for the newsletter BUT do this before 11:59 pm EDT on June 21st when this offer will end.

If you already subscribe to the newsletter, click there anyway to reconfirm your email to get the ebook.

The download is available in Mobi format (for Kindles) or ePub format (for Apple or other devices).
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DEyncourt posted:
Anyone in the US and Canada and over 13 in age interested in getting a free ebook of John Scalzi's "Old Man War"? Click here and sign up for the newsletter BUT do this before 11:59 pm EDT on June 21st when this offer will end.

If you already subscribe to the newsletter, click there anyway to reconfirm your email to get the ebook.

The download is available in Mobi format (for Kindles) or ePub format (for Apple or other devices).

Harrumph. I just read that series, like 3 months ago. Paid normal prices, too.

Worth it.
dv posted:
Harrumph. I just read that series, like 3 months ago. Paid normal prices, too.

Worth it.

Heh. Me too (well, except for being only 3 months ago).

Signed up for the newsletter anyway partly because of all the publishers Tor seems to understand their readers well.

And I figure that I could try reading it on my iPhone 7 to check if I like reading stuff that way.


I figured out that I had to copy the downloaded ebook to iBooks AND then tell iBooks to transfer its contents to iTunes.

BUT how do I delete an entry in iBooks? I have an old (from 2012!) entry for Apple's user's guide for the iPhone 5 (because I had thought about getting an iPhone back then but decided against it). I THINK it was NOT transferred to iTunes because I STILL haven't actually downloaded it from my iCloud, but I would like to get rid of that entry. NOTHING seems to work: not <mod key>-clicking on that entry nor anything in the iBooks menu.

Ugh. I checked Help>iBooks Help and under Read your books>Delete books from your Mac: it states specifically that entries in iCloud cannot be deleted. I can--through a process--hide specific books in my iCloud but I cannot delete them.

I imagine that the iPhone 5 user's guide isn't too large, but even it is only 250 KBs I don't see why I cannot remove an obsolete entry from my iCloud. Even with just the default 5 GBs of storage in iCloud I could imagine that eventually I might hit that limit and want to free up that 250 (or whatever) KBs.
user Stupid cockwomble
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I've been mostly using Kindle for the connivence.
DEyncourt posted:
And I figure that I could try reading it on my iPhone 7 to check if I like reading stuff that way.

I know I had posted somewhere here that I hadn't liked to read on electronic devices though I did note that those earlier experiences were on a Palm Pilot or a clone so back when screens were relatively low res.

I transferred Scalzi's "Old Man's War" to my iPhone 7 and OMG I LOVE IT!

In fact I re-read ALL of Old Man's War last night. I've always enjoyed Scalzi's writing and had intended to only read for a short while before going to sleep, but it has been a while since I had read Old Man's War and the experience of re-reading on my iPhone--once I had locked it into portait mode so that it wouldn't automatically changed orientation when I changed positions in bed--was easy. Not completely glitch-free, but easy enough.

A thought occured to me just now: I should have turned off my bedroom light because I shouldn't have needed it to be on.

One small irritation: I tried to see what would happen with the orientation if I invoked Control Center while the Books app was in landscape mode. Would it instead lock my iPhone into portrait mode like it did here? Unfortunately I wasn't able to bring up Control Center. While I could only rarely get the transparent arrow to appear at the bottom of my iPhone's screen, even when I did I could NOT swipe upwards to bring Control Center up onto its screen. All my efforts to try to do this would simply wipe away that transparent arrow.

I prefer reading in portrait mode in any case.

But <sigh> I have about 30 books on my to-be-read shelf and no plans to pick up ebook versions of them AND it had always irritated me that the price of ebooks was no less than that of physical books (though perhaps that has changed since it has been years when I last checked).

AND I LIKE to listen to podcasts while driving or shopping.

AND I prefer not to listen to audio readings. While a good reader could add quite a bit to a book, I have always been bothered by MY problem that there is an additional interpreter between me and the author even if that reader--who could be the author--is acting out parts of the book under the author's instruction or corrections. I realize that this is a subtle difference, but reading transports me into the author's written world in a way that IS different from someone reading that same story to me.
AND gettng ebooks would give me one LESS reason for getting out of the house. :)
user Stupid cockwomble
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Free and cheap books, mostly Kindle, some iBooks.

They send you regular emails with offers. I've got more than I can read on my phone now.
user posted:

Free and cheap books, mostly Kindle, some iBooks.

They send you regular emails with offers. I've got more than I can read on my phone now.

user Stupid cockwomble
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There's a lot of new authors in the free stuff, plus first books in continuing series. I've gotten hooked and paid for a couple of series so far. I've also stopped reading some books.
I have set up an account at BookBub mostly so that I could select my preferences in book categories and authors.

This morning I went completely through today's offerings (though I figure that I shouldn't have to do this more than once a week, so perhaps Wednesday would be a good day being the day after new books are set out in brick-n-mortar stores). Maybe this was simply due to my selection of categories but--MAN!--were there a lot of books (maybe a third?) either set in a dystopian future (a la Hunger Games) or in a world where the hero finds him/herself somehow different from others (a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer) or sometimes BOTH.

I haven't downloaded or bought any yet.
user Stupid cockwomble
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Yeah, there seems to be certain fads among the new writers. Most of the ones I stopped reading were those that turned out to be little more than paranormal romance - I selected sci fi and fantasy as a category.
Back to books:

Arrival by Ted Chiang (2016).

Do note that this version is explicitly (says so on the copyright page) the "Movie Tie-In Version" of the anthology first published as "Stories of Your Life and Others" in 2002.

TL;DR: I do recommend this book even without its association with the movie Arrival. Chiang has some really interesting ideas in this collection of short stories and novellas.

Of course my primary interest in reading this was to compare the original story "Stories of Your Life" with Arrival, and there are a lot of differences.

First, a small difference: in this story the aliens have only one main ship which was spotted approaching the Earth before it parked itself in orbit around the Earth. Instead of sending down a set of ships, there are 140 different locations around the world--the US got 9 of them--which receive what are called looking glasses. Each looking glass is an oval roughly 10 feet tall and 20 feet wide and an inch thick standing on edge. To all appearances they are just slate black until they are activated by the aliens, after which they appear to be a glass window between the viewers and a 3D extension of space beyond showing presumably a room on the aliens' ship into which the same two or three heptopods appear. When the aliens leave they leave behind all of the looking glasses which prove to be just sheets of pure silicon with nothing else inside them.

Second, unlike in the movie Louise Banks' daughter--who remains unnamed since when Banks is talking about her daughter's life here she is addressing her daughter directly--lives to the age of 26 when she is killed during a climbing accident while engaged in free climbing. The daughter graduates from university with one of those business degrees that Banks tells her that Banks doesn't understand.

Lastly and also unlike the movie Louise Banks doesn't end with her triumphant understanding of the heptopod language which eventually changes all of mankind. Instead she gets an occasion glimmer into the thinking of the heptopods which her incomplete understanding of the language only HELPS towards some comprehension.

There was also no threatened actions by some of the nuclear powers after the translation "misunderstanding" nor was there the incident of some soldiers planting a bomb in the gear that Banks and Donnelly had with them.

There was also an interesting discussion of the physics of light between Banks and the physicist Gary Donnelly which was completely omitted by the movie. In his note for this story at the end of the anthology Chiang explains that "the discussion of Fermat's Principle of Least Time omits all mention of its quantum-mechanical underpinnings." Well, whew--my background of only and mostly forgotten freshman physics WAS insufficient to fully understand what was discussed even though physicist Donnelly was attempting to simply it for linguist Banks and the reader.

So an altogether different story from the movie. Chiang was involved with the movie's screenplay so presumably he at least had some input into the movie beyond just being the original author.

Synopses of other stories:
Tower of Babylon: what if that tower were a real project given the understanding of the world at the time (yes, forget about the structural impossibilities), and had gotten to the point that miners and stonecrafters were called in to break into the Vault of Heaven?

Seventy-Two Letters: that title is supposedly one of the basic forms of the script--6 characters wide in 12 lines--that was to go into the heads of golems in order to activate them. In this steampunk novella--the longest story in this anthology--Chiang combines a lot of pre-scientific notions of the mid-19th century--like the idea that sperm contained the pre-formed version of the adult that it would eventually become if allowed to fertilize an appropriate ovum--and spins them out wildly.

Liking What You See: a Documentary: what if it were possible through applied chemistry to turn off the brain's center which appreciated facial beauty? This story is laid out in the form of contrasting commentary/diary entries of people on both sides of this question.

Not a synopsis:
Hell Is the Absence of God: here Chiang turns the notion that our current world lacks the prevalence of overt miracles by God on its head. In this world miracles are occurrences happening every few months and are heralded by the angels themselves announcing something like "I am the angel Nathaneal. Behold the power of the Lord" during which all sorts of mayhem (like earthquakes) and miracles happen in the local area around such appearances.

For Neil Fisk, such an event nearly breaks him. While Sarah--his wife of many years--was killed when she ate lunch in a cafe by being shredded when the glass window she was next to exploded as a result of Nathaneal's appearance, it was also witnessed by many that her spirit rose to Heaven. On the other hand Neil had been rather indifferent in his beliefs. He had been born with a congenital condition that twisted one of his legs such that he always walked with a pronounced limp BUT he is quick to point out--at least when given the chance to explain--that his birth was NOT heralded by any angelic appearance so his condition is considered natural. Sarah was the first woman who hadn't turned away or excused herself when whatever situation forced him to make his limp apparent--all other women automatically assuming that either Neil or his parents must have done something seriously evil for him to deserve such a fate.

So Neil is faced with a dilemma. He understands that if he is to join his wife in Heaven he must also love God as Sarah did, but he admits to himself that if he could have chosen his and Sarah's fate, he would rather spend eternity with Sarah in Hell--which also makes occasional appearances to people but appears to be have people there leading relatively normal lives--because Neil realizes that he cannot love God. Believe, yes, but not love.

But we are told in the opening sentence that "[t]his is the story of...Neil Fisk, and how he came to love God."

In his afterword comments on this story, Chiang wrote that he was dissatisfied by the Biblical story of Job especially by how God rewarded Job at the end. Chiang asked would you be satisfied if as a result of a wasting contest between the two most powerful beings in the universe that you got rewarded with a replacement wife and children?
One last add for BookBub: after you sign up, they will send out periodic mail one of which will feature all of the newest additions in general and another with those latest ebooks based upon your preferences, um, so I guess I really do not have to check in regularly.

Still haven't bought/selected a free ebook from them yet.
ukimalefu want, but shouldn't, may anyway
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Carlos Castaneda - The Second Ring of Power
The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross (2017), the eighth book in the Laundry Files series.

TL;DR: required reading for anyone who likes the Laundry Files series, but like the other novels of this series it is definitely the latest part of a continuing series, so you should read the rest before reading this one.

Heh. You might note that the Amazon page has that today, July 11th, was the release date in the US. I happened to stop in at my local Barnes & Noble this past Saturday and spotted the book on their shelves already. The clerk had some problems processing my purchase because it technically wasn't yet in the store's sales system yet.

It should be noted that while Stross was writing this book, he had tweeted that he wrote a good portion but had to scrap large parts because of the Brexit vote. Then he was nearly finished writing when November 8, 2016, happened, forcing him to again scrap some sections. While Stross does not write blatantly obvious caricatures of noted real-life people such as politicians, there are SOME descriptions in this book which sound a bit familiar.

Delirium Brief starts about a month or so following the end of The Nightmare Stacks, so The Laundry is facing a crisis. Long having been an all-but-entirely-forgotten branch of the government and accustomed to being out of the spotlight, all eyes are now focused upon the Special Operations Executive (SOE, the formal name for The Laundry) due to the brief war that broke out around Leeds at the end of the previous book. Indeed, there are still-smoking craters along with the deaths of over 10,000 people including the downing of 3 airliners and the curious collection of "statuary" that formed in front of a Leeds hotel which had been holding a furries convention when a fortunately short-lived order was sent out to charge up the area's surveillance cameras with basilisk gun tech in order to combat the invading elvish forces.

Bob Howard--who had been the main narrator of the first 5 books in the series--returns. He had been out of the series for 2 books because his new duties required him to check on the various projects that had been set up and run by his late predecessor, and so he had been "volunteered" to appear on the late night news show in part because he is the most senior member of The Laundry who has a well-established excuse to pass on MOST of the tougher questions to other Cabinet Ministers. While Bob's appearance was generally considered a success and there are some people who laughingly refer to The Laundry as the "Ministry of Magic", most people quickly sober when reminded of the devastation in and around Leeds.

This is quickly followed by the decision to instantly shut down The Laundry--despite the many problems caused by on-going projects--to be replaced with a privatized business already selected by the Conservative government (sound familiar?).

Let me add that Delirium Brief is not quite as "fun" a read as its immediate predecessors. If anything this novel is more suspenseful than those others with the fate of even primary characters somewhat in question beyond the novel's end.
I have made three purchases via BookBub:
The Birthday of the World And Other Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin (2002),
The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election by Malcolm Nance (2016), and
Dystopia: Collected Stories by Richard Christian Matheson (2000).

I've started the Le Guin anthology on my iPhone but got completely sidetracked by Delirium Brief.
Same deal from Tor Books for Kushiel’s Dart. Sorry, personally I wasn't much interested in starting this book series but the price is right: FREE. And one never knows for certain if a book series might spark further interest (which I am sure is Tor Books' motivation).

Likewise it is available for a limited time: you have until 11:59 pm EDT on July 19th to join the Tor Books Book Club (or update your current subscription) using the appropriate button on the linked page above and then download the book in either Mobi or ePub format (though I suppose you could download both). You have additional options for signing up for the company's monthly newsletters.

Once you are in their Book Club you will get a monthly e-mail which--among other things--will announce the new ebook at the start of the time it will be available (for a week before close).


Completely separate from the above: the has made put up an almost complete run of Galaxy Magazine (1950-1980) AND a partial run of IF Magazine (1952-1974?). You might also consider perusing their Pulp Magazine Archive which includes the above among other collections and some solitary issues of other magazines.
I did download Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey (2002) during the free download period from Tor Books.

TL;DR: I am about 1/4th the way through and I am undecided on whether or not to finish. While rather well-written I am rather uncomfortable with a book written from a submissive's POV given a culture in which outright S&M to the degree of physical torture is acceptable.

The book is set in a roughly parallel Earth in what we know as modern-day France. The geography of this world is rather altered although I am uncertain as to whether or not parts are missing due to mere lack of knowledge or if the map given at the start of the book is supposed to be accurate. There is no Scandinavia including Denmark, the British Isles are altered so that most of Wales is just a bay with a small island in it, and Carey's map cuts off across the northern parts of the Iberian and Italian peninsulas so that the state of rest of the Mediterranean Sea is unknown.

What is interesting in what Carey has done is her alterations to western European history. There was a Hellenic Empire (ancient Greece) which preceded and is generally regarded as superior to the Tiberium Empire (ancient Rome though taking its name the Tiber River) which largely fell apart some (3? 4?) centuries before Kushiel's Dart takes place. While the Tiberium Empire had spread its influence to at least the southern part of Alba (Britain), the Picts there had successfully pushed out the Tiberians rather early on such that there is an ongoing intra-family fight between two branches of the Pict royal family who each control Alba and Eire (Ireland, of course) over who gets to control ALL of those islands. Following the total collapse of the Tiberium Empire, a new state arose called the Caerdicca Unitas which covers all of what we would call northern Italy (and maybe part or all of the south? Uncertain) which is a collection of semi-independent city-states.

Carey also played with religious history. In her world Yeshua ben Yosef was crucified by the Tiberians, but from the combination of the blood of Yeshua and the tears of The Magdalene there arose the Blessed Elua (it almost certainly would be considered sacrilege in this world to suggest that The Magdalene was already pregnant with Elua). After a long series of adventures Elua and his disciples found their way to what eventually became the Kingdom of Terre d'Ange (France) where his basic teaching of Love as you wilt overcame the teachings of the One God (as taught by the followers of Yeshua? Unclear) such that some of the territories of Terre d'Ange took the names of some of the disciples and in which their varying forms of love SEX predominate.

The Yeshuites exist in Terre d'Ange but they are rather dour doctors tolerated due to their superior medical practices.

So some time roughly equivalent to our AD 300-700 Phèdre is born in the royal capital City of Elua (Lyon) through the scandalous union of an adept of Cereus House and a minor noble in the royal household. While sex for Cereus House is relatively conventional (though including homosexuality and group sex), the scandal is over how Phèdre's mother chose to marry Phèdre's father rather than continue as an adept in Cereus House.

Following what other minor nobles had done, Phèdre's parents undertook trade missions to the Caerdicca Unitas and parts of Skaldia (Germany and Switzerland and parts eastward). While Phèdre's young life had considerable travel adventures, when she was 6 years old her family returned to the City of Elua nearly broke. Phèdre's mother took advantage of her favored status with the Dowayne (chief) of Cereus House, pleading with her to help Phèdre's family by financing further trade missions. The Dowayne agreed BUT the cost was that Phèdre would become trained to become an adept at Cereus House and that her parents would never acknowledge her parentage. While Phèdre was seen as overall "comely" for her age, she did have what was considered a serious flaw: in the iris of her left eye is a large blood-red segment in her otherwise brown eyes. It is such that the Dowayne thought that Phèdre was unlikely to become a primary adept at ANY of the 13 Houses though she could have a background role such as a servant or a cook for the more suitable adepts.

A few years later when her "contract" became available for bid, a noble by the name of Anafiel Delauney recognized Phèdre's "defect" for what it was: Kushiel's Dart. Kushiel was one of Elua's disciples whose form of love sex was to serve as an extreme submissive accompanied with astounding recuperation. It had been over 200 years since the last person who had Kushiel's Dart was recognized, perhaps long enough that the dart began being regarded as an evil or unlucky sign. The Dowayne of Cereus House knew that she had made a mistake after Delauney instantly accepted the Dowayne's offer for Phèdre's contract at 5 times over those for other adepts.

Delauney's interest in Phèdre was not personally sexual but rather the possibilities of what her FUTURE sexual nature might provide in his role as chief rumor-mongerer in the capital. After he accepts Phèdre into his household when she turned 13, Delauney futhered her training by having her study the history and politics and languages of Terre d'Ange and that of the territories surrounding the kingdom.

I have provided this level of detail to just the OPENING of Kushiel's Dart to show that it is a very complex book with considerable political intrigues. There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in this book.

BUT I do have trouble with the book's fate-due-to-genetics (not called that within the text but basically it comes down to this). Sex plays a relatively minor role overall, but as this book is through Phèdre's POV, when sex is in the foreground it is rather explicitly through Phèdre's enjoyment of pain. Sorry, but not my kink.

I probably will finish this book considering the rest, but almost certainly I am unlikely to continue with the rest of this book series.
American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition: A Novel by Neil Gaiman (2011).

TL;DR: required reading for any Gaiman fan.

This is very odd. Somewhere among my books I am quite certain that I have a paperback edition of American Gods which I had read around 2003-5.

On the other hand: Gaiman had this version issued in 2011 with the "preferred author's text" so that there are some modifications upon what I had read about a decade-and-a-half ago. I was expecting to see at least a few changes from what I recalled.

Funny thing: while there are a lot of details that reminded me of the TV series of "American Gods", there are a LOT of them which I do not. For example: I'm pretty sure that I should have remembered this incident where Shadow is being led by one of Wednesday/Odin's ravens through the woods. At one point Shadow asked Huginn or Muninn for a favor: "Hey, say 'nevermore' for me" to which the raven replied "fiddlesticks you" but continued to lead Shadow. Even as a small detail in the overall text this is the kind of detail that should have stuck. MAYBE this entire section was omitted including that small detail, but as I read further into the book there were LOTS of segments that were completely new to me.

Certainly I do not have anywhere approaching perfect recall, and especially with novels my recall of them is more of a summary including some details. But when re-reading any book I usually will have parts where I will anticipate re-reading it because I will recall the "good" parts. I experienced very little of this EXCEPT when I read a section that had been covered in the TV series.

There are many substantial changes made in the TV series compared to the novel, but several of the changes have to do with the segments involving the "origins" and sometimes death of the gods when coming to America so their exact placement isn't THAT important. For example: the back history of Mad Sweeney is handled in a relatively short chapter in this book, but the TV series basically devoted an an entire episode to telling his American origin tale, at least indirectly.

On the other hand: the House on the Rock happened quite early in the novel (about 4 days following Shadow's release from prison) while the TV series seems about at the point where it will be going there (probably within the first three episodes of the second season, if that long).

I did like how the TV series changed Shadow's first encounter with the goddess Media. In the novel he is doing some late night channel-surfing at a motel before going to sleep and came across an old "I Love Lucy" episode which Media takes over. Shadow's reaction to this is to spend a lot of trouble to avoid watching any TV at all.

In the TV series Shadow is shopping for presents that Mr. Wednesday will be giving to Czernobog and the Zorya sisters, one of which is a new TV set. Shadow is somehow (purposefully?) alone in the TV section of an electronics store when the walls of TVs surrounding him are switched over an "I Love Lucy" episode where Ricky leaves their apartment asking Lucy to hurry up, then Media takes over in her Technicolor™ glory.

And, yes, Gaiman does leave the ending of American Gods open in such a way that he could return to the story AND conceivably write new segments for the TV series if that proves to be successful.
gd Hero of Twilight
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I just finished Gemina, which is the second book of the Illuminae Files series. It is very good. I can't wait until book three comes out.
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (2016).

TL;DR: unfortunately a VERY disappointing second half so I cannot recommend this.

Most of this book is in the form of transcriptions of dialogs between an unnamed and unidentified main narrator and the other characters. This narrator displays sometimes unnerving abilities to get under the skin of those people he is talking to either through personal details and/or confidential data. I imagine him as being the person who might be at the top of the data pyramid that ALL of the spy agencies WISH they could be.

Though the book begins with Rose Franklin retelling her initial accidental discovery in North Dakota. On her eleventh birthday she was anxious to start riding her new bicycle that she got from her parents that day, so in the early evening she took off for the local woods. She was riding on some familiar paths when she noticed an odd turquoise glow ahead of her. She continued forward when....

The next thing Rose was aware of was seeing a fireman shouting at her from about 50 feet above her. She found herself inside a mostly empty cube about 50 feet across which was all glowing in that turquoise, but what was most remarkable was the apparently sculpted hand that was next to her. About 6 feet long, that hand was surrounded by set of posts each of which had many lines of odd unreadable markings on them.

Rose waved back at the fireman to show that she was alive and awake. A fireman was lowered into the pit with a stretcher and put Rose into that, lifting her out of the cube. Rose was largely uninjured aside from the concussion she got falling in.

The US government was fully successful in covering up this entire incident with a mundane explanation, but Rose remembered.

About 17 years later, Dr. Rose Franklin (Ph.D. in physics) had gotten herself onto the secret group of people studying that hand (although oddly they had shown very little progress over such a time. Perhaps the hand and the surrounding posts spent some time in that government warehouse at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark"?). Practically indestructible, a small sliver from the hand was worked off and chemical analysis showed that it was about 85% osmium, 10% iron, 4+% platinum and iridium, with the remaining fraction-of-a-percent being trace elements. Despite the inherent mass of osmium (a few slots to the left of gold on the periodic table), the hand was still relatively lightweight compared to the many tons it should have weighed if it were solidly osmium. The hand was resistance to all attempts to analyze its interior with no technique being able to show anything definitive.

There were competing explanations of the age of the hand which cannot itself be dated. Some used some of debris found within the cube to date it to around 1500 years ago while others contend that it must be many thousands of years old based on the soil samples around the base of the cube.

Fortunately for Dr. Franklin ANOTHER piece had been found. While on short incursion mission into Syria to investigate a reported nuclear research facility a US Army helicopter was back in Turkish airspace when it was brought down with what appeared to be a severely strong electromagnetic pulse (EMP), although it had been totally unexpected due to the considerable EM shielding that the helo had. Through rather heroic efforts the helo pilot was able to bring it down in a controlled crash despite the helo's low altitude. The pilot and her co-pilot were able to get out of their crash on their own, and upon finding that both were mostly OK aside from being rattled in the crash they looked around for a possible source for whatever brought them down. Fortunately for them a short distance away there was a odd turquoise glow in which they found a tapered cylindrical object about 3 feet across at the end that sticking out of the ground. Of course the US military were called upon to seal off access to the area and the piece was recovered and sent to Dr. Franklin's research group.

That piece turned out to be the matching forearm to the hand (though I should note that Neuvel never specified if it was a right hand or a left hand). When the pieces were brought close to each other SOMETHING drew them together forming a complete forearm with no readily obvious seam between them (a process which came close to killing an assistant who happened to be almost in their way during the joining).

Dr. Franklin thought about the circumstances leading to the separate discoveries of the pieces. Her late father had been a miner in a uranium mine close to "her" find, and the helo had been investigating a reported nuclear facility: how about a relatively high presence of argon-39, a short-lived isotope and sometimes by-product of uranium fissioning? While there would always be a very low level of argon-39 being naturally produced by uranium-bearing ores, that isotope having a short half-life of tens of days meant that only a higher concentration could be generated, say, by a technological society building nuclear power plants raising the concentration to much above that background level.

A test program was put together. Those helo pilots--partially because of their knowledge from the discovery of that forearm--were sent aloft nightly spraying still low-levels of argon-39 in patterns around the US, trusting that altitude and downwash from the helo would sufficient diffuse the concentration by the time it got near the surface. Their first new location also caused many of the electronics in their helo flying at a flight altitude of 5 K feet to fail (though that time they were able to perform a better controlled crash) so subsequent flights were at 15 K feet over the surface. This particular discovery was also in a relatively unpopulated location in the US.

One of the following discoveries wasn't so unpopulated.

A race is on to locate the remaining 15 or so parts of a statue that would be about 60 feet tall altogether before anyone else finds anything. This is considerably complicated by the problem that not all of the parts will be found in US territories.

So lots of interesting stuff, yes? I've gone into details covered in the first quarter or so of the book to explain why I had been enthusiastic to get the second volume which is out now in hardcover.

You noted that bolded "had been". While the first half of the book was not without SOME problems, I thought that it held together rather well BUT the second half has HUGE problems, mostly but not entirely political. The public discovery of the robot through an accident led to the US president to declare that the robot will be disassembled--controls that allowed this had been found--with the parts to be distributed along the Puerto Rico Trench so some 5+ miles below the surface of the Atlantic. Does this sound at all reasonable to be performed upon an obviously alien though admittedly dangerous artifact still containing lots of unknown science and technology? There are also many serious science problems throughout the second half like human-alien hybrids that are still among us and such.

I did finish the book but with a rather heavy heart of disappointment and also glad that I hadn't bought the second book.
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: A Novel by Salman Rushdie (2016).

TL;DR: I am having a tough time recommending Rushdie's semi-modernization of the classic One Thousand and One Night. It is generally well-written but I'm having a bit of a problem of reconciling Rushdie's future vision of a period of rationalism following this period of 2 years 8 months 28 nights of gradually growing general mayhem.

I also strongly suspect that I am insufficiently widely read in the right books to pick up on a lot of Rushdie's more subtle literary humor.

The title is something of a Gregorian calendar rendering of 1001 nights: if you were to count out 1001 nights over a 3-year period which did NOT include a leap day, say, starting on January 1, 2017, then that final night would be September 28, 2019, i.e. the 28th night of the ninth month within the third year. Of course that precise date varies if one changes the start date to a month other than January and/or includes a leap day given how the months in the Gregorian calendar vary in length in no reliable manner.

The book deals with the interaction between humans and jinn from Fairyland (as Rushdie calls their world separate from ours). This leads me to a question: how do you pronounce JINN? I've always pronounced JINN with a hard "g" combined with a short "i" following other speakers, so pretty much the same as "gin", the alcoholic drink. On the other hand in this book the collective noun for these beings is JINN but the word for an individual (gender unspecified) is JINNI or for a specific female is JINNIA. Shouldn't JINNI be pronounced like "genie"? Wouldn't this imply that JINN should be pronounced with a hard "g" and a long "e", so like "gene"? Rushdie did not provide a pronounciation guide.

The novel begins with a rivalry between two philosophers in the court of Moorish Spain "1001 years ago" that transcends their deaths. While still alive, the loser of these two philosophers named Rushd is exiled from court and manages to eek out a living in the Jewish quarter. Though in his 60s Rushd catches the eye of a beautiful young woman whom Rushd assumed to be Jewish. Together they raised dozens of children before Rushd dies in his 80s.

Unbeknownst to Rushd while he was alive, that woman was actually a jinnia. Not just any jinnia but the Lightning Crown Princess, daughter of the Storm King of all Jinn. She self-exiled herself to the human world because she admired Rushd for his mind, but partially because of her being missing for a couple of decades upon the princess' return the Storm King sealed off all access to the human world.

The story then switches to "now", 1001 years later. In a city that is unnamed but is all-but-explicitly Manhattan in NYC a gardener who is the multi-great grandson of Rushd and the jinn princess awakes after having a disturbing dream during which he had talked to the princess. After getting ready to go out gardening he discovers an odd circumstance: he is floating about the thickness of a sheet of paper over the ground. It is such that he does not make any indentation into the bench seat of his truck and his feet are floating just a bit over the truck's pedals, nor can he leave any footprints in the dirt.

During that dream the princess explains to the gardener that the seals between Fairyland and the human world broke down if only being 1001 years old. There are jinn who are interested in creating mayhem in the human world including one who had promised 3 wishes to that OTHER philosopher, the rival of Rushd. That philosopher had worded his command upon releasing the jinni from the bottle that held the jinni captive that his wishes could outlast his life. Upon seeing that the modern world had been largely gone against his philosophy that philosopher's spirit commanded the jinni to be free to do whatever he wanted to create havoc.

Over time the princess explains to the gardener that he along with the other descendants of Rushd have the collective power to counteract these evil jinni.

It shouldn't be necessary to say that following 1001 nights of growing mayhem that order is restored, but while I readily concede that this book is well-written I am left at the end with the question of "Was this trip really necessary?" Personally I feel that the answer is "no".
The Making Of The Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes.

Highly detailed accounts of the main individuals

The chapters dealing with the politics of where to bomb is astonishing.
Yesterday I convinced a guy NOT to buy Joe Haldeman's The Forever War (yet).

I was browsing through the SF/Fantasy section at my local Barnes&Noble listening to my podcasts when a boy passed in front of me carrying a copy of that book. I readily admit that I am particularly horrible at guessing the ages of young people: he could have been a small 10-year-old but based on his size I guessed 7.

That boy was taking the book to show to (I presume) his dad. I grimaced, shut down my podcast and talked over that book with that gentleman. I asked him if he had seen the "Starship Troopers" movie (which he had while his son had not, so GOOD for that dad!). I noted that the movie really should have been plastered with warnings of "LOOSELY based upon the novel", pointing out Heinlein's book on a nearby shelf, and let him know that The Forever War was an homage to Starship Troopers, the distinction of both novels having is that their stories are told from a grunt's point-of-view rather than that of a general directing his troops into battle. I told him that while both books are considered classics, that it might be more useful to read Starship Troopers first before Forever War because the former takes something of a "Rah! Rah! Earth!" WWII view of war while the latter's sensibility was more formed from the Vietnam War.

AND that while he should let his child read both, maybe that he should wait for at least a couple of years.

In the meantime his boy had left us to look at something else, so I quickly added that Forever War also included some sex scenes specifically some of a homosexual nature. And that unlike the movie which did gloss a bit over sex that the novel Starship Troopers was a product of its age, so lots of death and destruction but no sex whatsoever.

I saw out of the corner of my eye that the boy returned with another book in hand which I did not attempt to identify, and that his father returned Forever War to the shelf, so: crisis and/or trauma averted.
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gd Hero of Twilight
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If you count Biochem, Histology, and Dental Anatomy texts as recreational then yes. Otherwise, I haven't got time for that anymore.

fiddlesticks, I don't even have time to be posting here anymore.
user Stupid cockwomble
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This month's free book deal from Tor Books will be quite a bit different. Instead of the first book in an established series as was offered in the previous couple of months, this time they will be offering Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. This offer differs in many ways:

1) this is book THREE of Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series, and this book will be published on November 14, 2017.

2) Beginning with this coming Tuesday, 8/22, Tor Books will make the preface of Oathbringer available under the same deal: sign up for Tor Books newsletter. Then for the next 11 Tuesdays they will make subsequent 3 chapters of the book available up to chapter 32 which will NOT be the complete book which--not coincidentally--will then be available in bookstores.

3) Each of the downloads will be found here (which of course has nothing as I type this).

4) Tor has this page as a summary for the entire Stormlight Archive.

I am uncertain about starting Stormlight Archive, but I will give Sanderson a chance and read the first few parts of the new book.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I have a pile of books here i need to get to. I just started a Nicholas Sparks book called See Me. I have another NS book, also, as well as The Gunslinger by Stephen King. The latter will likely be the next book i read. I wish i had more time!
DEyncourt posted:
3) Each of the downloads will be found here (which of course has nothing as I type this).

Hrumph...still nothing there (yet).

On the other hand the preface for Oathbringer can be read here.
21: The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey by Patrick O'Brian (2004).

TL;DR: Not at all a conclusion to the Aubrey/Maturin series as this otherwise untitled book has only the opening 3 chapters to what would have been the 21st book of the series except that O'Brian died in 2000. This version has copies of O'Brian's handwritten text opposite an edited transcription of that page.

While I had been alternating an O'Brian book with other books, on Book 16 I decided I needed to complete the series and thus read through them all.

As I suspected before I have arrived at the end of this series with scarcely more additional nautical knowledge in my head because O'Brian hardly ever explained such, I guess trusting that knowledgable readers would recognize its nautical accuracy while unnavylike shlubs like me would gloss over those parts.

In any case I AM sad that there are no more Aubrey/Maturin tales to read (though there is a small handful of other O'Brian texts. Hey jkahless! Have you read any of those?), but there is the prospect that I could re-read the series in 5 or 6 years.

I do heartily recommend that any reader should take a look at the first book, Master and Commander (though do note that the novel only shares the primary characters and SOME of the stories that were in that movie with the same name). Perhaps in a few years after that you too will also lament the end to the Aubrey/Maturin series.
The Underground Railroad by Colin Whitehead (2016).

TL;DR: a somewhat reluctant thumb-up. Read this book with the understanding that this is NOT at all a historical text even with its rather magical fantasy elements.

The opening part of this book is an outline of the arrival of Cora's family to the United States with her grandmother being captured by the various warring factions of the African Slave Coast and her horrific passage aboard a slave trader to the Randall cotton plantation near the coastal part of Georgia. She gave birth to Mabel--Cora's mother--who had made the decision to run away when Cora was 9 (leaving her behind) which sets up the lifelong vendetta that the slave-tracker Garrett has against Cora's family because he failed not only to recover Mabel but to find even a whisper to where she might have gone (though the reader finds out why this was so late in this book).

When Cora decides to run about a decade later, the reader first encounters the titled Underground Railroad which is not called that in any metaphorical sense but an honest-to-goodness (though extremely limited) rail system that exists VERY deep underground through parts of the American South.

Here began my problem with this book: I had approached the book as if this were a science fiction alternate history novel and thus I had a LOT of questions. While a station master dismisses the ventilation problem and the basic construction with single sentences such as "Who do you think built all of this?" (the obvious implication being slaves somehow doing this in their off-hours), these were only rather minor questions compared to the many that I had: how would the many cubic miles of dirt and rocks be hidden? Where would the tracks have been made and how would the construction of the miles of train tracks be unnoticed? Where did these trains get their coal and how would that go unnoticed? Who financed all of this just for the benefit of freeing seemingly mere dozens of slaves every year? When parts were discovered, how could they hide the rest of the system? My questions went on and on.

It was only when I was near the end of the book that it occurred to me that my approach had been wrong. The Underground Railroad is NOT a science fiction book but a magical realism book: things just exist in this alternate history world so the reader shouldn't worry about such details.

With this correction in thinking things fell better into place for me though they still bothered me.

Cora's adventures through this alternate American South of the 1830's was more of a travelog of horrors than anything else. Cora was helped to run away by Caesar who brings to the story his rather pleasant life in Virginia as the son of a slave woman owned by a kindly old woman there. While there were also plantations, Caesar's mother was more of a caretaking nurse to that old woman that owned them. Caesar picked up the tradecraft of fine woodworking as an apprentice to another slave in town while being able to self-educate himself in that old woman's home library before that old woman's death caused her inheritors to sell Caesar's mother to someone else and Caesar to the Randalls to pick cotton at their plantation in Georgia.

Cora and Caesar's first stop along the Underground Railroad was in South Carolina which at first seems to be a rather advanced place in racial thinking. While still racially segregated, here the whites were engaged with the ideals of "fine, upstanding person uplift" which on the surface appeared to be beneficial to the slave population. The state government had been buying slaves so on the books these slaves still belonged to the state, but the slaves here are allowed access to their own schools and libraries and hospitals and independent employment. There was even a program where runaway slaves are given cover with the names of recently deceased slaves of appropriate ages, although this can be of only limited use because if identified a runaway slave could still be taken away by slave-trackers.

BUT there was a hidden side to that uplift program that is revealed to Cora which foreshadows the Tuskegee syphilis experiment by a century (and would have beaten Louis Pasteur and his linking disease with microbes by about two decades, but remember: magical realism).

Given her relative freedom within South Carolina--only to be tracked down there and forced to run by Garrett--Cora was left totally unprepared for the horrors of North Carolina, her next stop on the Railroad. I will leave this to Whitehead to fully describe.

As I wrote before in my review of Underground Airlines, saying that I was entertained by this book is the completely wrong term. It is more of the fascination with a particularly grisly traffic accident.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander and JK Rowling (2009).

TL;DR: a bit of puffery with a scant relationship with the rest of the Harry Potter novels. To be sure: Rowling has donated all proceeds for sales of this book to various charities so good for her, but completely unnecessary to be read except by VERY hardcore fans of the Potterverse.

I speculated in my review of the movie of the same name upon how much of this text was used for the movie. Arguably aside from some of the descriptions of the fantastic beasts that appeared in the movie, that entire movie was inspired from a single paragraph in Scamander's introduction to this book.

Most of the text is just a brief encyclopedia of various magical creatures with only a few of them extending beyond a single page using a rather large font. With few exceptions of well-known beasties like unicorns and dragons, most of these descriptions appear to be more-or-less random selections with a dart board with a map for a location, a color wheel for a random hue, perhaps the inclusion of a bit of "real" history.

If you feel inclined to buy this book as a donation to charity, I would recommend instead sending the price of this book as a direct donation to Lumos.
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just finished "shattered," about the hillary clinton campaign

excellently written, benefitting especially from total access ... but also a truly devastating read

an apocalyptic mixture of bad luck and incompetence that put a maniac in the white house, you just want to go back in time and shake people by lapels to wake them the hell up

anyway a great read, I can't recommend it enough
If you enjoyed Cory Doctorow's Walkaway, you should probably read his novella set in that universe posted here by Tor Books.
The ORIGINAL inspiration for Frank Herbert's "Dune".

Adding this here because of reading in general. I should point out that I have not read the book in question (but I am thinking about getting it).
Tor Books has released another first FREE e-book in a series: Envy of Angels: A Sin du Jour Affair, which is the first book of a presumably to-be seven book series in which author Matt Wallace focuses on a food-related versions of the seven deadly sins (he and Tor will release book 6: Gluttony Bay this coming November).

To qualify you must be in the US or Canada and be 13 or older. First sign up here to receive Tor Books' weekly (or so) e-mail newsletter, then use the subsequently available link to download Envy of Angels in either ePub or Mobi format. This offer is valid only through "12 midnight EST on Friday, September 29th" (that wording is a bit off since in previous offerings Tor had the ending time of 11:59 pm ET which is more definitive, and for this past June and July offerings it was Sunday through Thursday instead of Tuesday through...what? Perhaps they meant the ending midnight of Friday? Personally I use the starting midnight of a given date).

Grumph. OK, that was annoying. Because of the recent changes for iTunes 12.7 I found that the method I used earlier to move a title from my MBP's iBooks to my iPhone's Books list did not work, BUT after some time--maybe a minute or so?--Envy eventually appeared in my iPhone's Books list though not checkmarked among my "selected books".
Yeah, sorry, but change is HARD. Image
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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Apparently it's only good for existing subscribers. Apparently that means that you actually hit the subscribe button, because while it knows my email, it still says I don't qualify.
maurvir posted:
Apparently it's only good for existing subscribers. Apparently that means that you actually hit the subscribe button, because while it knows my email, it still says I don't qualify.

I guess that they will require SOME time to process your subscription. I don't recall exactly how long it took when I first subscribed back in July but it wasn't very long. Um, try again tomorrow?

I'll also mention that this free e-book offer was the first entry in THIS week's newsletter from Tor Books. This IS a bit different from the previous offer in July (June was when I first signed up) in that THAT month I got a separate e-mail with just the free offering from Tor Books. So maybe wait until you get this week's newsletter?

The offer in August was completely different in that chapters of a to-be-released book were being offered at about 3 per week until that book's release date in November 2017.
His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire, Book 1) by Naomi Novik (2006).

TL;DR: a terrific first book in a now 10-book series. It shares a lot of the social scenery with Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander though with the addition of dragons. I AM going get more of Novik's novels.

I mentioned that I had enjoyed this book to a friend who I must admit had recommended it to me a while back, but I had hesistated until BookBub had the e-book version on sale recently for 99 cents (though I must mention that it is no longer so), and I read it on my iPhone. While I told her that there was a lot in style that this book shared with Master and Commander, she mentioned that perhaps both Novik and O'Brian commonly shared the resource of about 1000 Regency romance novels which were popular in Britain during the early 19th century.

This story begins during the Napoleonic Wars with the end of a ship-to-ship battle somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic where the British Reliant overcomes the rather beleaguered French Amite. Having taken the surrender of the French captain, Captain Will Laurence is rather surprised by the dragon's egg in the hold of the Amite considering that dragons are a rare though valuable commodity in this world. Placing his first lieutenant as captain of Amite, Laurence transfers that egg to the Reliant for their safekeeping.

The ship's doctor--being an amateur naturalist--examines the egg and declares that its now rather hardened shell indicates that it must be rather close to hatching. Being too far from port Laurence quickly decides that--given the British Aerial Corps' reputation of being distinctly NOT family-man friendly--all his unmarried officers aboard Reliant must put their names into a bag and a name would be drawn to be the "volunteer" who would be drafted into the Aerial Corps and away from the British Navy, placing his own name in the bag first. An ensign has his name drawn, and a few hours later the dragon hatches but has his own mind of whom he wants as his partner....

I enjoyed this book very much. I think anyone who liked reading O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series should also find this book very familiar as it follows that series very closely in style (though with not as much sailing jargon).

I suppose that perhaps I should take a look at some of those Regency romances if this novel gets some of its manners from those period books. Oh dear: more books to read.

EDIT: grumph. I saw that I had left out a significant detail which places this book in history.

Last edited by DEyncourt on Sat Sep 30, 2017 4:52 pm.

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