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Thread: What are you reading?

  1. #3001
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    Agree completely with the 'way to long' part - the accuracy was in the flint knapping and primitive skills bits - although some of those stretched the envelope of credibility.

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    What kind of gets me is that Ayla and people she knows invented everything. Domestication? Check. The atlatl? Check. Ceramics? Check. The sports bra? Check. It gets if anything more boring than the "relationship" stuff. (I have for years referred to them as "prehistoric romance novels.") I didn't finish the last one, because she kept giving the same three lectures about surviving in the neolithic that she'd been giving for the previous four books. Some of which I'd already learned in Girl Scouts.
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    Well, after all, "Ayla" is the Cro-Magnon word for "Mary-Sue."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren View Post
    What kind of gets me is that Ayla and people she knows invented everything. Domestication? Check. The atlatl? Check. Ceramics? Check. The sports bra? Check. It gets if anything more boring than the "relationship" stuff. (I have for years referred to them as "prehistoric romance novels.") I didn't finish the last one, because she kept giving the same three lectures about surviving in the neolithic that she'd been giving for the previous four books. Some of which I'd already learned in Girl Scouts.
    Yes.

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    Clare read the first four books. By the 4th book she was very very bored with the explicit detail. She will be amused by the "relationship" euphemism (complete with air quotes).

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    I did initially mean actual relationship. Jondalar irritates me deeply. He needs to grow up, and from what I can tell, he never really does. This time through, I'm coming to the conclusion that he's actually emotionally abusive, and it's a shame no one invents therapy or interventions or something.
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    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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    If you think that now, just wait until you get to the final book. It gets worse.

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    Most of the men (including Broud) seem to be more caricatures or stereotypes of men that Auel knew or fantasized about, in my opinion. To put it another way, I think the male characters and Ayla's "relationships" with them tell us more about Auel than anything else.

    CJSF
    "Flipping this one final switch I'm effectively ensuring that I will be
    Overcoming all resistance long after my remains have been
    Vaporized with extreme prejudice and shot into outer space.

    I'll be haunting you."

    -They Might Be Giants, "I'll Be Haunting You"


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  9. #3009
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    Just discovered - by pursuing my habit of browsing in charity bookshops - a series of books new to me featuring PC (Police Constable) Peter Grant. The blurb describes the first book as "Harry Potter grows up and joins the Fuzz". It's a police procedural, with magic. First in series "Rivers of London" (you will learn something about the riverine geography of the Thames basin too!) and author Ben Aaronovich.

    Now, I complained like stink when Game of Thrones introduced a magical character, because it was so sudden that it smacked of lazy plot development. Aaronovitch's book follows strict SF practice, by making an "If" assumption and following it logically. Larry Niven did the same with "The Magic Goes Away" to great success and I wish Ben the same.

    If you do, I hope you enjoy it.
    JOhn

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    So, standard urban fantasy fare then. I read the first two books of the Harry Dresden series and while I enjoyed the premise, it got old in the second book already. I have heard it gets better from book four, when the main character actually gets character development - his inability to learn from past mistakes was what did in book 2 for me.
    I have also at the insistence of a friend tried some other urban fantasy authors, but I couldn't really get into any of them.

    I'm reading Neal Stephenson's REAMDE right now. It's long, and sprawling, and interspersed with long, rambling detours. I wouldn't even mind the detours (most of the time the topic is more interesting than the main story currently going on) but even the detours can't get to the point. The main story might be interesting, if you can find it. The secondary story about making a gamebreaker MMO is also interesting. The main character... sounds like a Niven dreamgirl. Not sure about her. I'm quite far in and the plot has only just started rolling.


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    The John Keller hit man series by Larry Block.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnD View Post
    Just discovered - by pursuing my habit of browsing in charity bookshops - a series of books new to me featuring PC (Police Constable) Peter Grant. The blurb describes the first book as "Harry Potter grows up and joins the Fuzz". It's a police procedural, with magic. First in series "Rivers of London" (you will learn something about the riverine geography of the Thames basin too!) and author Ben Aaronovich.
    That is a really good series actually. I am waiting for the next one in it quite impatiently now. It is filled with so many nods to London that anyone born within fifty miles of the place cannot help but be charmed.

    Quote Originally Posted by jokergirl
    I'm reading Neal Stephenson's REAMDE right now.
    I have no idea what happened to Stephenson. I read Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash and thought he was a brilliant author. But since then everything else he has done has been at best sub-par and at worst a chore. His long historical series ... I actually gave up on a book for the first time ever in that series.

    Recently I have picked up Steph Swainston's Year of Our War series again. If you like the new weird style of fantasy they are among the more accessible ones, fairly well written and fun. Be warned that she gave up writing to be a teacher though so the odds of any more appearing are slim.

    Another one I am reading is Tom Holland's Persian Fire. A very entertaining history of the Events leading up to Platea. Had a habit of interspersing fairly scholarly bits with quite earthy language so not one for the children to read along with.

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    I found a couple books by Barry Eisler, about John Rain, that I haven't read yet. So, reading those. Then I need to find something new.

    I may need to start going to the library again, just to look through the new book section.

    TJ

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaula View Post
    I have no idea what happened to Stephenson. I read Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash and thought he was a brilliant author. But since then everything else he has done has been at best sub-par and at worst a chore. His long historical series ... I actually gave up on a book for the first time ever in that series.
    I suspect he got TooSuccessfulToBeEdited syndrome.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    I suspect he got TooSuccessfulToBeEdited syndrome.
    Do very successful authors get that? I would think it's always good to have an objective look at your work from another source. I think Ive seen Stephen King mention some of his stuff being sent back to him as way too wordy, and he has to be considered successful as anyone. I really don't know much about how that process works, from author to editor to publication.

    TJ

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    Speaking of "too successful to be edited", and since I'm here, and since I know there's some interest in Robert and Virginia Heinlein hereabouts: I've just finished Heinlein's "Tramp Royale", his (alleged) travel book about their trip around the world in 1953-4. It wasn't published at the time, and eventually saw the light of day in 1992.
    I bought it mainly because I wanted to get a look at Virginia Heinlein, who is often claimed to be the model for Heinlein's strong "Capable Woman" characters. Disappointingly, she comes over as a complete airhead and nightmare travelling companion - constantly strip-mining various shopping districts for clothes and souvenirs, getting sullen and uncooperative with customs and passport control, and on one occasion deciding to smuggle forbidden US dollars into Indonesia (Indonesia, for crying out loud!), but choosing to smuggle her dollars in the form of travellers' cheques rather than currency!
    As a travel book goes, it's pretty dull - I reckon more than half the book is taken up with describing hotels, modes of transport, border-control hassles, currency-exchange outrages and what the Heinleins think is wrong with the way various foreign countries organize themselves. Heinlein even devotes two pages to a suggested itinerary in the USA which would allow his readers to see everything New Zealand has to offer without actually having to undergo the horror of travelling to New Zealand.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2014-May-18 at 11:41 PM. Reason: Got the dates wrong

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaula View Post
    I have no idea what happened to Stephenson. I read Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash and thought he was a brilliant author. But since then everything else he has done has been at best sub-par and at worst a chore. His long historical series ... I actually gave up on a book for the first time ever in that series.
    Takes all kinds, indeed . I love the Baroque Cycle books. Love them. Clutch them to my chest, cackle, and love them some more.
    Thought Anathem was OK, but not brilliant by any means. Thought REAMDE was a return to his Necronomicon style and class.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    As a travel book goes, it's pretty dull - I reckon more than half the book is taken up with describing hotels, modes of transport, border-control hassles, currency-exchange outrages and what the Heinleins think is wrong with the way various foreign countries organize themselves. Heinlein even devotes two pages to a suggested itinerary in the USA which would allow his readers to see everything New Zealand has to offer without actually having to undergo the horror of travelling to New Zealand.

    Grant Hutchison
    It was clear they they had a very unpleasant time in New Zealand, especially when they first got there. They had a hotel that they hated, and looked for another, but this one was supposed to be one of the best ones in New Zealand at the time (early '50s). They were taking sleeping pills because they were too uncomfortable to otherwise go to sleep. They found most of the available food to be nearly inedible, until they found a decent restaurant. I've forgotten the details, but there was a tour guide that was comparing (if I recall correctly) hot springs and other features with U.S. ones, and was saying things Heinlein knew to be wrong, but wasn't interested in any information he could give her. That, incidentally, sounds very much like a scene in one of his novels.

    I have a suspicion that he wouldn't have been quite so negative about later events in New Zealand if not for the early hotel and food problem. The two page description of an alternative itinerary in the USA makes sense to me given the context. Why would you want to go someplace for vacation where you can't even sleep well?

    I thought Tramp Royale was fairly interesting, though I wouldn't recommend it to anyone that isn't a Heinlein fan. It was clear that he used the trip for inspiration in later novels. I saw pieces of Tunnel in the Sky from his South Africa tour, Podkayne of Mars scenes from his time on ship, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I bought it mainly because I wanted to get a look at Virginia Heinlein, who is often claimed to be the model for Heinlein's strong "Capable Woman" characters. Disappointingly, she comes over as a complete airhead and nightmare travelling companion
    I didn't get that negative of an impression, though I certainly did see her similarity to some of his characters, including negative aspects.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    It was clear they they had a very unpleasant time in New Zealand, especially when they first got there. They had a hotel that they hated, and looked for another, but this one was supposed to be one of the best ones in New Zealand at the time (early '50s). They were taking sleeping pills because they were too uncomfortable to otherwise go to sleep. They found most of the available food to be nearly inedible, until they found a decent restaurant.
    Yes, comfort and convenience was very much the focus of their entire trip - the more of that there was, the better they liked a place. And I do understand that that is most people's idea of a good holiday trip. But on the other hand, I don't think a catalogue of complaint about its absence is most people's idea of a good travel book.
    I also suspect the Heinleins were pretty much exhausted by the time they got to New Zealand. Little things loom large under these circumstances, and it would also explain why Heinlein burst into tears of relief when he arrived in Hawaii.
    Little things: Sure, it's curious that 1950s New Zealand restaurants provided only one menu per table, and the waiting staff looked askance at a diner who asked them to bring him another menu from an empty table four feet away. That's the sort of local colour I try to put into my own travel writing, and I usually try to make it into a joke on myself. But Heinlein goes on for pages about this. Yes, Bob, it's a bit odd. No, Bob, it's actually not that much of a big deal.

    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    I've forgotten the details, but there was a tour guide that was comparing (if I recall correctly) hot springs and other features with U.S. ones, and was saying things Heinlein knew to be wrong, but wasn't interested in any information he could give her.
    Yes. And at that point in his narration, Heinlein gets out his Encyclopaedia Britannica so that he can quote from it to let the reader know that Heinlein was right and the tour guide was wrong. In my experience, tour guides are often wrong, and seldom welcome disagreement from random strangers in their audience. (They have a tour to get on with, and random strangers are often wrong.) To me, that's an anecdote that isn't even worth mentioning. To Heinlein, it seems to have been an insult beyond bearing, to the extent he's still petulant about it a year later when he's writing the book.

    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    I have a suspicion that he wouldn't have been quite so negative about later events in New Zealand if not for the early hotel and food problem. The two page description of an alternative itinerary in the USA makes sense to me given the context. Why would you want to go someplace for vacation where you can't even sleep well?
    Well, I'd say I sleep terribly on about one in two of my vacations. I'm primarily interested in being in the place, and the nature (or absence) of accommodation is very much a secondary consideration. So Heinlein let me down in that regard - he didn't tell me enough about the place to let me form my own judgements about whether I would want to deal with the accommodation. It's why I see this as really not being a travel book: it's mainly autobiography and political opinion in a travel setting.

    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    I didn't get that negative of an impression, though I certainly did see her similarity to some of his characters, including negative aspects.
    Having had unpleasant dealings with border bureaucracy in South America, Africa and Asia (not to mention Alaska!), I would say that Virginia Heinlein (with all her mutinous mutterings, petulant refusals and impulses to smuggle forbidden items) would be a positively terrifying travelling companion.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2014-May-18 at 10:57 PM.

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    I just finished Roy Chapman Andrews' Under a Lucky Star. I'd read some excerpts in a young peoples' biography of him I'd had since Elementary School, but reading all about his various expeditions and adventures in his own words was really something else. Truly high adventure! There is, of course, a bit of the racism and sexism that comes with it being written in 1943 by a man born in the 1880s, but also a lot of kind words about his fellow scientists and museum workers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KaiYeves View Post
    I just finished Roy Chapman Andrews' Under a Lucky Star. I'd read some excerpts in a young peoples' biography of him I'd had since Elementary School, but reading all about his various expeditions and adventures in his own words was really something else. Truly high adventure! There is, of course, a bit of the racism and sexism that comes with it being written in 1943 by a man born in the 1880s, but also a lot of kind words about his fellow scientists and museum workers.
    Andrews may have been the prototype for Indiana Jones, according to some theorists. I read his books on dinosaurs fossils in my youth. (When dinosaurs were almost recent!)

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    I meant to post that I was reading Wonder by R. J. Palacio. I am now finished with it. I saw that she has an e-book companion chapter for Justin, one of the characters in the book, and more supplemental material is on the way. Not sure how I really feel about the book. I like it, and it had an emotional appeal of sorts. I liked the way the chapters and POVs are done, too. But something about it struck me as almost too idealistic in how Auggie's school year went, but that's likely colored by my 5th grade experience. :-/

    CJSF
    "Flipping this one final switch I'm effectively ensuring that I will be
    Overcoming all resistance long after my remains have been
    Vaporized with extreme prejudice and shot into outer space.

    I'll be haunting you."

    -They Might Be Giants, "I'll Be Haunting You"


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  23. #3023
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    I didn't get that negative of an impression, though I certainly did see her similarity to some of his characters, including negative aspects.
    Having thought about this overnight (and I promise I'll stop going on about this book in just a moment), I think part of the problem with the depiction of Virginia Heinlein in Tramp Royale comes from the stereotypical 1950s "little wife" attitude Heinlein adopts in his narration - Virginia (whom he ickily calls "Ticky" throughout) is consistently written as the hot-headed, capricious, illogical female, while Heinlein has the role of the sensible and put-upon male. At one point, Heinlein solemnly advises his readers that, if your wife wants to go shopping, you should issue her with an allowance, but under no circumstances go with her, because the little minx will immediately be able to charm you into buying her more fripperies beyond her allowance. Occasionally, as the Heinleins bicker away, they seem to be inhabiting an episode of "I Love Lucy". (And wouldn't that have been a fine excursion for the World As Myth?)
    I think it's a voice that Heinlein adopted, and I think it's very much of its time. Unfortunately, it's a voice that kept cropping up in his later novels, too - his Capable Women are often roundly patronized by their male companions. Which of course is why the arguments about whether Heinlein was a feminist or a sexist are never going to go away.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2014-May-19 at 06:16 PM. Reason: typo

  24. #3024
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    And one of the reasons I don't read Heinlein.
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren View Post
    And one of the reasons I don't read Heinlein.
    I hear you.
    I thought Tramp Royale, which would inevitably include much description of his relationship with Virginia Heinlein, might let me tease out what was going on in his mind with his later female characters, as well as in some of his more ghastly "jokes" (the perfume called "Justifiable Rape" in Time Enough For Love springs to mind, unbidden). But I'm no farther forward. He patronizes the woman with whom (by most accounts) he shared a relationship of mutual love, respect and admiration. He patronizes her in print. And she happily has it published after his death. This is the same woman who edited down Grumbles From The Grave so as to show Heinlein in a better light ("blew his nose and combed his hair," in Frederik Pohl's words).
    It seems like both of them found this sort of male-female interaction so normal that it was simply invisible to them.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2014-May-19 at 06:52 PM. Reason: added last line

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    Quote Originally Posted by DonM435 View Post
    Andrews may have been the prototype for Indiana Jones, according to some theorists. I read his books on dinosaurs fossils in my youth. (When dinosaurs were almost recent!)
    His is one of the names that comes up a lot, but I'm of the opinion that there isn't just one inspiration. Dr. Jones is based on the whole pulp-and-serial milieu that was itself inspired by numerous real-life explorers of the early 20th century-- when asked, Lucas and Spielberg have always named film and literary sources as inspirations, not historical figures. So yes, he's partly Andrews, but he's also partly Hiram Bingham and Percy Fawcett and Sylvanus Morley and T. E. Lawrence and all of the other names that get thrown out, too.

    (There is apparently a tie-in novel where Jones does go to Mongolia in search of dinosaurs, and while the franchise Wiki lists Walter Granger as one of the historical characters appearing in it, there's no mention of Andrews-- but in other novels and the TV series, he meets Fawcett and Lawrence without any weirdness. I haven't read this novel yet, but I'd like to find it:
    http://indianajones.wikia.com/wiki/I..._Dinosaur_Eggs )

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    There's this document floating around on the web that is supposedly a transcript of Lucas and Spielberg spitballing Indiana Jones. It's a wonderful read, if true.


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    Quote Originally Posted by jokergirl View Post
    There's this document floating around on the web that is supposedly a transcript of Lucas and Spielberg spitballing Indiana Jones. It's a wonderful read, if true.

    I just read that, it was interesting-- I got a kick out of the fact that the first placeholder name used for the Belloq character was "Erich Von Daniken".

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    I just started reading Terry Pratchett's Raising Steam. It's very early in the book, but the style seems a little "off" to me from earlier novels, which may just be a result of the way he is dictating the stories as he fights through the Alzheimer's disease. I'll have to read further and see if that changes or to be more precise in this early impression. I am by no means complaining and I'm thrilled that he is still writing, in any fashion. Certainly his story-telling ability is still strong and (for me) that is what I have always liked most about his work.

  30. #3030
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    I enjoyed it quite a lot, and it delighted me that he brought back an old character from a previous book, however briefly.
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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