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  1.  (9362.581)
    I've just finished Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin. It's a collection of short stories loosely organised around the idea of tourism to alternate dimensions (although they're not that alternate, they're basically like other planets you don't have to get in a space-ship to visit.) I always enjoy Le Guin's science fiction because the science doesn't neglect social science - these stories, like those in her Hain cycle, mostly deal with the consequences of various social systems for the people living in them. It's a little over-simplified in that there's a tendency towards planets with only one culture/language on them, but remains interesting throughout.
  2.  (9362.582)
    So, finally sat down and read A Game of Thrones. Why didn't someone make me read this earlier? Moved onto A Clash of Kings immediately after. What a great series so far. I'm also very glad that I managed to actually avoid any spoilers about the book, especially with most of my friends having watched the TV show.
    • CommentTimeOct 10th 2011
    Taking a break from the final pages of my Rat book to at least start The Age of Wonder: How the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of Science by Richard Holmes. Loving it so far.
    • CommentTimeOct 10th 2011
    The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco, here. I loved the beginning; it's long been a fantasy of mine to construct a piece of fiction out of quotes, so I was hooked right off the bat. I'm now in the middle and it's dragging a bit, if only because it's so centric on a time period and a culture (WWII Italy) that I feel a bit disconnected. And there are a lot of rhetorical questions I could do without.

    I will probably be onto A Void by Georges Perec after this, if the library doesn't send me copies of Reamde and Ready Player One first. Have I mentioned lately how awesome this thread is?
    • CommentTimeOct 10th 2011
    Oh! I picked up The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana a couple of years ago but haven't started reading it yet. Eco is one of the few authors I will read anything he writes. @allana - I had a similar problem getting through Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow - it was so deeply placed within the WWII era, and operated on a level that requires readers to themselves be deeply familiar with the era and the casual culture surrounding it in order to even understand what is happening most of the time. It was a difficult, uphill struggle every step, and ultimately I'm not sure if it was worth it, but I did make it. I wonder how relevant a book like that can remain, or if there is a point to worrying about relevance at all - it was a text that rewired some thinking in the heads of culturemakers at the time it was written. Literature, film and television have all been affected by what it did to the heads of it's readers back then. It may be wrong to think a book needs to go on being influential or accessible long after the world it was written to address has changed.

    Reamde keeps being terrific! I'm a little under half way through. One of the best things about this book is, it's an international crime thriller, with spies and terrorists and criminals and all the action that implies, but the characters swept up in all of it have genuine histories and consciences. Like lots of international crime adventures, the more or less innocent protagonists who are swept up in the deadly game meet other people along the way, drivers and pilots and guards and things, who become also accidentally wrapped up in things, but the protagonists actually feel guilty about that. The moral dimension to a main character's actions, trying to stay alive but also trying to week the bad business from rolling over the lives of incidental people, is really refreshing.

    It's like if James Bond actually cared about the guards he knocks out or shoots. It's really refreshing.

    Plus, man, the plot of this book is just killer. It hits you with curves when you aren't expecting them, and they are good curves. Curves that, just when you think you've got a sense of the size of the problem to worry about, you round the corner and oh boy that's a way bigger problem! The fight scenes are incredible. It's edge of the seat, can't put it down stuff.
    • CommentTimeOct 13th 2011
    New Terry Prattchett - 'Snuff' arrived on my kindle this morning.
    Very excited and will likely be quite the antisocial bartender in the coffeeshop this evening as I get stuck into it.

    Finished REAMDE for the second time yesterday.
    I always like to re read his books immediately as it gives my poor little brain the chance to properly digest the bits that I have only half understood/absorbed the first time round.
    • CommentTimeOct 13th 2011
    It's funny; I didn't have that problem with Gravity's Rainbow at all. I was reading it during treeplanting, which meant that I was probably too exhausted at the end of the day to really do more than admire the prose. That probably has a lot to do with it. I remember being upset at the end when I realized Pynchon was actually going to draw together the disparate threads into one big happy ending. I was also probably drawing off my love of Catch-22, there.

    Mysterious Flame is still dragging a bit. I love so much Eco's explorations of character and culture, but hate that he has to throw in those "And then I did this thing which was daring and death-defying and which has scarred me to this day" just so his protagonists can have some justification for ranting about themselves. It's so ... leftovers of psychoanalysis. Fiction doesn't need that big tumultuous formative event to be compelling, guys.
  3.  (9362.588)
    Finished Cities of the Red Night. I was interested to see how Burroughs would carry a straight narrative from start to finish, but I am still yet to find out, because soon after my last post things started getting crazy (well, normal for a Burroughs book I suppose). A great read, but I want to know what happened to the main characters we were following and their stories.

    (Though I'm wondering if it's supposed to be a case of their actions bringing about the future [past?] that the final third of the book covers. One character is helping take over large areas for the Articles, and another is creating magickal books, so perhaps we're traveling forward in time to see what effect their actions had. Or perhaps Burroughs just got bored and wanted to explore the madness of the Cities of the Red Night before the book ended...)

    Started on A Game of Thrones. About 200 pages in, and it's fantastic, even if I do know what's going to happen from watching the TV show. Amazed at how closely they were able to adapt it so far.
    • CommentAuthor256
    • CommentTimeOct 18th 2011
    Finally got around to reading Huppy Luvcraft's At The Mountains Of Madness. Enjoyed it, and I don't know why it took me so long.

    As an aside, I have to say that I think any (even approximately) straight film version would be pretty bad. Lovecraft is one of those authors I'd rather see skillfully mined for tone and setting, rather than truly adapted.

    Also, "At The Mountains Of Madness" has got to be one of the best titles ever.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeOct 18th 2011 edited
    I bought an eBook reader. A refurbished "Literati," being sold by a discount/closeout grocery store for $40. It's OK. Some things don't work and it is barely supported. But you can buy books for it from the Kobo site, which looks pretty decent.

    Christened it with Children of the Sky (Vernor Vinge) and Agatha H and the Airship City (Girl Genius novelization). Titles for which I'll edit in here later.

    I'm about 20 pages into The City and the City.
    • CommentTimeOct 18th 2011
    Read two Roman items recently - Jonathan Hickmans "Pax Romana", which I enjoyed hugely, and Steven Saylors "Roma", which I didn't. The latter wasn't *bad*, but given how good the rest of Saylor's work is, it was really disappointing. Saylor tells 1,000 years of Roman history in about a dozen interconnected stories spread across the period. The longer pieces are the best, as he gets into the characters and the milieus. The rest are overly telescoped and all too often consist of the old character telling the young character much of the history. Just plain disappointing.

    Now debating whether to start "Reamde" or the new Vinge or a couple of non-fiction items recently purchased.
    • CommentAuthoredyhdrawde
    • CommentTimeOct 19th 2011
    Beowulf - Seamus Heaney's version
    Carte Blanche - jeffery Deaver (James Bond)
    Scarecrow - Michael Connelly
    Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
    Grendel - John Gardner
    Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury
    Dies The Fire - S.M.Stirling
  4.  (9362.593)
    Work has eaten up my life these past two months. The only thing I've managed to complete recently is the first volume of Sambre by the Belgian comics writer/artist Yslaire. It's a historical melodrama tracing the history of one family in mid 19th century France. And it's in French. But it's beautifully composed and the artwork is gorgeous.
    • CommentTimeOct 19th 2011
    I got Ferdydurke. Goddamn, how I love that book. Why isn't it required reading in high school? Hrm, maybe 'cause most of it is about achieving/denying maturity and the idealism/anti-idealism of grade school....
    • CommentTimeOct 20th 2011
    Re-reading ROADSIDE PICNIC by the Strugatsky brothers. It had been a while and I had forgotten how contemporary and visceral it is, as well as how influential. I can think of several authors, like Aylett, M. John Harrison and most of the early cyberpunks, whose work reminds me of its style and subject matter.
  5.  (9362.596)
    I read Roadside Picnic a few months back. It's utterly mad and wonderful. M. John Harrison's Nova Swing makes deliberate call backs to it.
    • CommentAuthorRobson
    • CommentTimeOct 21st 2011
    THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY - I'm convinced that many of the insane tales related herein are metaphorical at best (and total bullshit at worst), but it's every bit as mind-bending as his films. And much of the philosophical inquiry is earnest - a gentle reminder that enlightenment is a process, not a goal. I've had one or two freakishly shamanistic dreams since starting the thing.

    THE HILLIKER CURSE - not just James Ellroy rehashing the same territory. Every time he approaches telling the story of the woman/women who obsess him he bares a little more, goes a little deeper. Ellroy proves unafraid to turn the glare of his perception onto himself, and finds a sensitive soul beneath his considerable bluster.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeOct 21st 2011
    Another Stugatsky Bros.'s book worth looking for: Monday Begins on Saturday.

    It's a Soviet-era urban fantasy about a magical research institute, based on Boris' academic experiences. One chapter is a tribute to geek passion ( in this case, for one's scientific research); wonderful.
    • CommentTimeOct 23rd 2011
    Just devoured Craig Thompson's Habibi. It's frankly astonishing as a piece of hand made art.

    Sometimes I find his twin obsessions with religion and sexual loathing exhausting. But there is no denying the incredible beauty of his work.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2011
    I am reading Machine Man by Max Barry and I am 140 pages in and it is SO GOOD right now that I was made physically uncomfortable and had to come touch a computer for a while. The first 30 pages were a drag but then it became AMAZING. I just know the ending is going to be totally heartbreaking, the way Tom McCarthy's Remainder was amazing and then went terrible. Ugh. Do not read Machine Man if you like body modifications or transhumanism, because it will make you extremely happy and then enormously depressed.