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    • CommentAuthorDC
    • CommentTimeMay 6th 2011 edited
    Finished Casino Royale by Ian Fleming a few days ago. I've never been a James Bond fan but I really liked the book because it was a bit different from the image of James "escape from a trap-splode the bad guys-get the girl" Bond I had from almost all the movies (stopped watching them somewhere in the Pierce Brosnan fase).
    Started Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. The style reminds me of Neil Gaiman but that could be from the translation.
    • CommentTimeMay 6th 2011
    Curious, it this novels only or can I post about a GN that I finished reading?
  1.  (9362.3)
    Beamish -- Some people talk about GN and no one has been bothered by it so far, so hey, why not?
  2.  (9362.4)
    a book's a book
    • CommentAuthorNil
    • CommentTimeMay 7th 2011
    Just finished the first Foundation novel by Isaac Asimov. Interesting read, but I'm not sure I like the ideas that (a) a Galactic Empire is a good thing* and (b) that it's completely justifiable to manipulate the lives of millions of people over the course of a millennium in accordance with Hari Seldon's plan. Any of the stuff dealing with the religion of science was just massively uncomfortable - "Hey guys, let's invent a religion so we can control these savages by carefully keeping them in a pre-scientific state. Which is totally OK, because it's for the GREATER GOOD (as prophesied by some dead dude hundreds of years ago)"

    The more I think about it, actually, the more distasteful it is. Which is weird, because I really enjoyed reading it at the time - it reminded me in a way of Olaf Stapledon's "Last and First Men", only with more swashbuckling trader captains.

    * Also, centralized control of 25 million planets? I have horrible visions of entire star systems populated only by bureaucrats ("Welcome to the Department of Space-faring Vehicles System 008. You are currently 15 billionth in line").
  3.  (9362.6)
    Love the Foundation books, tho be advised, there is a decline after the first three. Was not too offended about the issues you raise -- SF exists to ask these questions.

    Almost finished reading Totem and Taboo by Sigmund Freud. Not entirely idiotic -- the man had a brain and used it. However, there is a lot of conjecture and speculation involved. The book is built on the premise that neurotic disorders can provide insight into the social and cultural structures of pre-historic peoples, and you do end up murmuring "correlation does not equal causation" a lot. Still: interesting ideas, and very accessible to those (like myself) who know squat about psychology.

    I haven't read any non-comix fiction in aaages, so may launch into Le Guin's The Dispossessed after Freud.
    • CommentTimeMay 7th 2011
    Reading Katelan Foisy's Blood & Pudding. I can definitely say that this is perhaps one of the most honest books I've read.
    • CommentAuthorNil
    • CommentTimeMay 7th 2011
    NOTE: Spoilers if you haven't read the Sword of Truth series.


    I agree that SF exists to ask those kinds of questions, but my problem with Foundation is that they're never really asked. At no point does anyone involved go "Hold on a minute, are you guys *sure* we're doing the right thing?" I mean, there's internal dissension, but that has more to do with the methods by which the Foundation achieves its goals, not whether or not those goals are actually good.

    Maybe it's just me, but this is one of the problems I have with a lot of fantasy novels, particularly those involving ancient prophecies of any kind. It makes any act acceptable, no matter how awful the consequences, because hey, it was foretold, right? The peasant boy must become king in order to save the land, and who cares who gets trampled along the way. That's one thing I always liked about the Sword of Truth novels (I have to admit I gave up somewhere around the time Terry Goodkind basically started advocating war crimes, so I don't know how it all pans out in the end) - the prophecies lead to Richard Rahl becoming king, some sort of almighty super-wizard and all the usual jazz, but they also ruin his life. He can't have a child with the woman he loves. He's forced at every turn into courses of action he hates. He rails and thrashes and strains to find a way to live his life the way he chooses. In Foundation (if you replace "prophecy" with "psychohistory"), there's just a kind of bland acceptance - Seldon says it will happen, so it will happen and there's nothing mere individuals can do about it.

    Right, that turned out rather longer than I intended.

    Next up is the four sample chapters of John Scalzi's "Fuzzy Nation" that have been made available online. Chapters 1 & 2 at and 3 & 4 at io9. I'm a little uncertain about this one - I loved the Old Man's War series, but rebooting another writer's work is a big ask for anyone. I haven't read the original, although I believe it's on Project Gutenberg, so I won't be comparing it against that, I guess, but I just have this nagging feeling that something's going to feel not quite right about Scalzi's version. I hope to be proven wrong, and will report back after finishing those chapters.
  4.  (9362.9)
    @DC I really enjoyed the Fleming Bond novels. Interesting as a look back at what he wrote during the time period, and what you can't get away with writing today. Bond/Fleming was racist, misogynistic, violent, and very much a man of his time. I feel it is wrong to judge writers (and their characters) of the past by the moral or societal standards of today, but it is interesting to note the evolution of Bond through the decades (especially the detail given to the brand of cigarettes he smokes, moving on towards a "healthier" smoke).

    Also, I felt very bad for the character of Felix Leiter, the CIA agent friend of Bond. By the time Fleming died, Felix had (from wiki)
    lost his right arm and half of his left leg and suffered facial injuries, he is wearing a hook for his missing hand and a prosthetic leg that causes him to walk with a limp, and has had extensive skin grafts to repair the injuries to his face.
    I think he was also attacked by a shark, and lost other parts as well. I think when the other authors of Bond are done with him, Felix is a stump of a man in an electric wheelchair.
    • CommentAuthorDC
    • CommentTimeMay 7th 2011 edited
    @gov spy - It was the first time I read a Bond novel and I was very skeptical about reading it cause I'm really tired of the caricature the character became in the movies. Casino Royale was actually a surprise for me, I wasn't expecting him not to be so two dimensional (despite being an asshole). I actually don't see any problem with the way he is. The character is like that, I just have try to enjoy the story. As long as the character is compelling enough and makes sense in the story, he could be a psychopath for all I care.
    Jeez, poor Leiter. At that rate he will just be a head in a jar like in Futurama.
    Curious fact: what happened in Casino Royale actually happened to Fleming. He was cleaned out in a casino game in Lisbon during WII and (some say) fantasized that were German agents that cleaned him out. From there to the book it was a small step.

    Meanwhile, I'm loving Heart-Shaped Box. Yesterday I went to bed very late, tired but still got sucked into the story in 2 or 3 pages and felt frightened with the writing. Can't remember the last time a book had this effect on me. Compelling writing that makes me want to read more and more, yes but actually frightened, not so much.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeMay 7th 2011 edited

    Asimov's wife authorized a trilogy about the last years of Hari Seldon's life. Written by Benford, Bear, and Brin. Highly idiosyncratic and uneven, but they all took on the hard questions about the Empire, psychohistory, and . . .
    . . . the fallout resulting from Asimov's decision to link his Robot stories with the Foundation setting.

    The three come to the conclusion that the Empire has a lot of safeguards and traps to ensure stability and prevent a Singularity from happening. Brin, notably, includes rants that parallel yours. He seems particularly ticked at the thought of . . .
    The ancient robot R. Daneel creating the group-mind society "Gaia" to assimilate and pacify humanity. Brin imagines a far future in which the First Foundation -- representing liberal humanism and technological progress -- triumphs, and Gaia and any number of human "clade" societies co-exist in a diverse second Empire.
  5.  (9362.12)
    @DC Yeah Casino Royale was very close to true life, though Fleming never saw any actual action. The way I heard it was he was at the hotel and heard there were German spies gambling, and had this fantasy where he would go down to gamble and clean out the Krauts for Queen and Crown, but instead lost every penny. Later he wrote Casino Royale to get an ending that he had fantasized about.

    Oh, don't get me wrong, I don't see a problem with Bond; he's just written in a way that people can't get away with anymore. It's very true to the time period. I don't remember which book it was, where a bunch of criminals are described as a mix African and Chinese descent, and are called "Chinegros" and it's that kind of thing that makes you aware of the period.
  6.  (9362.13)
    Just finished Monstrocity by Jeffrey Thomas , thought it was a great witty book. I recommend it if your in to the whole H.P. Lovecraftian like fiction, even though i thought the ending was kind of weak. But I rarely find a book with a great ending that satisfies me.
    I started reading Necronomicon by Donald Tyson. Reads like the actual H.P. Lovecraft non-exsistant tome. very creepy stuff so far.
  7.  (9362.14)
    China MiƩville leads radical SF's invasion of the mainstream

    Some discussion on politically radical SF that may be of interest to those of you about to read Embassytown or who have been talking about the Foundation series.
    • CommentTimeMay 12th 2011 edited
    i finished Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson. i think i'm hooked; the series is way more bloodthirsty and merciless than i initially credited it.
  8.  (9362.16)
    @allana deadhouse gates is nasty. but it goes darker places later.

    i finished Erikson's final volume recently. the ride is worth it. it is the defining work of epic fantasy of the decade, raising the bar and redefining the playing field.

    Memories of Ice, up next for you, was my favourite of the set, and one of the very best fantasy novels I've ever read.
    • CommentTimeMay 12th 2011
    Reading John Shirlley's CITY COME A WALKIN' and liking it.
    • CommentTimeMay 13th 2011
    @allana and undulating: I've had the first two books in the Malazan series for a while now. I made a couple false starts on Gardens of the Moon as I got distracted and the sheer initial density of the writing kind of put me off, but I feel like I'm missing out. Is it worth pushing on through that initial resistance and getting used to the series style? Or if it just doesn't click at the start is it not likely to?
  9.  (9362.19)
    For those of you into cookbooks, I"d been interested in this subject for a while, and recently heard of it...
    (Crossposted in the Food & Cooking Thread)

    From the Big House to Your House

    Celeste Johnson, 48, who is locked up in a Texas prison for killing her husband, is forced to improvise when she wants to make food in her cell. She and five other inmates recently published a cookbook, "From the Big House to Your House," which lists nearly 200 recipes that can be made in a prison cell with very limited ingredients from the prison commissary.

    From the Big house to Your House

    She talked to a few other inmates and decided to put together a cookbook of their recipes. There is a "skin on the pig" burrito that involves soaking pork skins in water. Johnson's favorite is "delightful tuna nachos," where canned tuna is mixed with chicken seasoning, powdered milk, hot sauce and other ingredients before dumping them atop nachos.
    The book comes with "Did you know?" facts after every recipe, like "The prison dentist only pulls or fills teeth. An inmate can only have their teeth cleaned if they pass a plaque test with less than 10 percent plaque. If the inmate fails the plaque test, then the teeth are not cleaned."
    There also is a Prison Lingo section describing terms like bird bath (washing at the sink instead of the shower), ear hustling (eavesdropping), goosing (fornicating) and spit boxing (arguing).
  10.  (9362.20)
    @jbrennan @allana Well I am biased since I have read the whole thing and enjoyed it.
    Erikson himself states that you can probably tell about a third of the way through GOTM if it is worth continuing with the series: if you are still enjoying it at that point, go for it, if not, bail. The story being told is huge, spread over thousands of years, and pieces are given quite non-linearly.

    For me, it is the series that got me back into fantasy as an adult. It has a sheer scope and ambition which is hard to communicate, and great philosophical resonance; likewise, it is difficult without massive spoilers to communicate just how much it is not doing what fantasy normally does. Also, the writing really improves as the series goes on, something I noticed when I reread the first one.

    What I would recommend is if you are going to read it, do it in one go, more or less. The thing is so vast that you will get more out of it the more of it is in your head at once; I found in waiting for the last couple of books that a bunch of details and resonance had escaped my mind.