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Bugs: Recent Topics Paging, Uploading Images & Preview (11 Dec 2020)

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What books are you reading?

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10 Oct 2023 19:41 - 05 Nov 2023 20:34 #340731 by Cranberries
I'm rereading Three Days to Never by Tim Powers.

I love the premise and history-rich urban fantasy set in cold war LA. it's a great vibe.

Edit: So there's a subtext in this book, that the most horrific thing you can do is, using some occult artifact, cause someone to never have existed. Huh, I thought. Then I realized that in a way this is an extended argument about abortion or birth control. Sneaky, Tim. Still a good book. And some ruthless, gritty violence. "These aren't men, they're demons". as the Vespers have discarded their humanity for a shot at becoming omniscient and immortal.
Last edit: 05 Nov 2023 20:34 by Cranberries.
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11 Oct 2023 03:29 #340736 by Nodens
Replied by Nodens on topic What books are you reading?
Tim Powers is my greatest find of the last years. His research is top notch, he likes a large cast and hits the tone and vibe of his chosen time and topic so well.
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11 Oct 2023 09:29 #340738 by Shellhead
I was a big fan of Tim Powers in the '80s and '90s, but I finally lost interest after reading Declare (2003). It wasn't that bad, but it was overly familiar, with Powers returning to the same familiar tropes. I might give his 21st century stuff another try at some point, but it's low on my list of things to do.

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16 Oct 2023 19:13 #340780 by DarthJoJo
Double feature of Graham Greene for me with his Monsignor Quixote and Travels With my Aunt. Heart of the Matter is one of my all-time tops, but I had thus far stuck to his very Catholic novels. These were my introduction to his breezier work.

Preferred Quixote. It’s funny. Things matter. Could be a stage play with minimal adaptation. Despite the drastically different tone, it reminded me of Brendan Gleeson in Calvary. A priest who seeks nothing more than to take care of his parish becomes a sort of defender of the greater Church.

Travels felt very much of today. A bored man, recently retired from the bank, goes on the titular travels and finds a begrudging release from the ennui he didn’t know he suffered. The aunt is a great character but feels very much like a template for the manic pixie dream girl.
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26 Oct 2023 18:57 - 27 Oct 2023 11:36 #340861 by dysjunct
Chokepoint Capitalism by Cory Doctorow and Rebecca Giblin.

A damning indictment of how big tech and big business have colluded to prevent creatives from connecting with their fans. Nothing much new here if you're familiar with Doctorow's work, and the suggestions for what to do are pretty thin gruel (but maybe realistic).

The first half (the indictment) is fine; shocking to the degree you're not cynical about big business. Record labels are assholes, no news there. More noteworthy is Amazon's domination of the audiobook market thanks to its purchase of Audible. Audible requires that all books distributed through it have DRM, and if you don't like that -- e.g., if you want your fans to actually be able to own the files they buy instead of "licensing" their use, which can be revoked at any moment -- then Audible won't stock your book. Facebook and Google dominate the online advertising market, letting them manipulate users to many bad ends. And so on -- rent-seeking occurs whenever there's a fraction of a cent to be made from it.

The solutions are to unionize, pass laws to require interoperability and owning your data (e.g. you own your friends list on Facebook so you should be able to download it in an open format and transfer it to a different social network), and pass laws allowing modification of your own devices as long as you don't violate copyright (currently this is often illegal; e.g. you can't erase and reprogram your Alexa because of DRM, and it's illegal to bypass DRM even if you don't break any other laws).

This is all well and good, but if it were that easy it'd be done already.

Doctorow also rides his pet hobby horses pretty hard; the reader will come away thinking that every bad idea in the history of the world originated with the Chicago School of Economics, and Milton Friedman in particular. There's many valid criticisms of both of those, but when they are called out every chapter and twice on Sundays, it starts to feel overwrought.

I've been following Doctorow since his Boing Boing days, so it's largely a retread of his greatest hits. Overall it's worth reading if you're not familiar with the ways that monopsonies distort markets. Otherwise pass.

3/5 stars.
Last edit: 27 Oct 2023 11:36 by dysjunct.
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27 Oct 2023 13:01 - 27 Oct 2023 13:26 #340864 by Jackwraith
What have I been reading for the past few months...?

John Reed, Radical Journalist by Kenneth Z. Chutchian. Reed is a fascinating figure for those of you interested in American history at the beginning of the modernist period (He's the central figure in Warren Beatty's Reds), so I've read a fair amount about him before. This was recommended to me by a friend and while I enjoyed it and learned a couple new things, it was pretty light overall. I feel like it painted less a vision of the man than a vision of what other people thought of him at the time. More dissertation than book.

The Crusader Armies by Steve Tibble. A very detailed analysis of how warfare was conducted at that time and in that geographical area. I liked it, but it's definitely a military history wonk book.

Among the Ultras by James Montague. A really fascinating dive into the ultra community of football fans around the world. He went everywhere from Bolivia to Ukraine to Los Angeles and all stops in between. It's excellent if you're a football fan and have at least a tiny bit of knowledge in the realm which will be massively expanded. It's also an interesting excursion into the presence of organized crime in Eastern Europe...

C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy by Jeff Sharlet. Another book where I already knew a fair amount of the subject matter, but which brought a lot more detail to my view. I appreciated that Sharlet, raised in a fundamentalist tradition, could contextualize what he was exploring as something both familiar and threatening.

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. Enthralling. He explores the industrial, culinary, cultural, and mercantile aspects of the world's most necessary foodstuff. The little tidbits he would just drop in and which flowed right to more expansive stories were excellent. For example, I didn't know that Syracuse was a complete backwater until they completed the Erie Canal to Utica... so they could transport salt from the Buffalo works to New York City and the ports. It's excellent.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe. The best account of the Troubles I've ever read. Full stop. Most of it is based on interviews with the people who were actually in the mix, plus there's a good overview of the troubled Boston College project that tried to archive a history of the fight. Really great.

Hyperion by Dan Simmons. I'd never gotten around to reading it, despite its laurels, so I started it on a flight and am about halfway through it. It definitely earned those laurels so far. The detailed realization of each character's story has been really interesting.

I've also been reading or re-reading segments of Chaosium's HPL story collections tied to each god: The Hastur Cycle; The Tsathoqqua Cycle; etc. They're mostly made up of one or two HPL works and then many others by other writers springing off those (or sometimes progenitors that Lovecraft used as inspiration.) I'd had them on a list for a while and finally found a few at cheap prices and so ordered as many as I could find. They're all out of print, so they're kind of expensive for paperbacks, but not horribly so, with the exception of The Azathoth Cycle, which is being sold for north of $150 in most cases. (So, if anyone has one they want to trade for or sell at a more reasonable price, I'm interested.)
Last edit: 27 Oct 2023 13:26 by Jackwraith.
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27 Oct 2023 14:00 #340865 by Shellhead

Jackwraith wrote: Hyperion by Dan Simmons. I'd never gotten around to reading it, despite its laurels, so I started it on a flight and am about halfway through it. It definitely earned those laurels so far. The detailed realization of each character's story has been really interesting.

I've also been reading or re-reading segments of Chaosium's HPL story collections tied to each god: The Hastur Cycle; The Tsathoqqua Cycle; etc. They're mostly made up of one or two HPL works and then many others by other writers springing off those (or sometimes progenitors that Lovecraft used as inspiration.) I'd had them on a list for a while and finally found a few at cheap prices and so ordered as many as I could find. They're all out of print, so they're kind of expensive for paperbacks, but not horribly so, with the exception of The Azathoth Cycle, which is being sold for north of $150 in most cases. (So, if anyone has one they want to trade for or sell at a more reasonable price, I'm interested.)


It's been many years since I read the Hyperion/Endymion books, so time for a re-read this winter. Simmons was doing a science-fiction Canterbury Tales, but brought lots of bold ideas to the table. I ended up reading every Simmons book in the library before bouncing hard off of A Winter Haunting. His book The Terror became a mini-series of the same name on AMC some years ago. I watched it all during a major blizzard weekend and it was great.

I've got The Hastur Cycle, and it's decent. Hastur is my favorite part of the Cthulhu mythos because he is so different in many respects and inspires some very strange stories. If you enjoyed The Hastur Cycle, you might also enjoy a similar anthology, In The Court of the Yellow King.
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05 Nov 2023 20:35 #340947 by Cranberries
I'm reading Killers of the Flower Moon I've had sitting around for a couple of years, but just heard the adaptation wasn't that great. The book is good so far.
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30 Nov 2023 23:21 #341174 by Hammy
Replied by Hammy on topic What books are you reading?
Currently working through Body Shocks by Ellen Datlow which is a short story compilation of stories about body horror from numerous authors. Books are the one form of media where I can handle and enjoy horror without having nightmares the next week or so. I like to think because I control what I imagine to hear and visualize in the story, plus I have a history degree so reading messed up stuff is something I am used to by now. Body horror can often be the most visceral and graphic, so I've dived right into this subgenre since horror is pretty new to me and I know I can handle it in this form. I've already read a few of Clive Barker's work and they've been a riot.

Finished about 10 stories so far and they've been solid. Nothing in horror novels ever disturbs me but horror can often lead to wild outcomes where no one is truly safe. The last few I just finished also had some great imagery that I will remember for the next few days at least.
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01 Dec 2023 17:33 #341193 by dysjunct
Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle. Not erotica, but horror. Fun and well-done. Turns out Tingle can actually write. Or at least good enough to be edited into something publishable.
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06 Dec 2023 23:40 #341215 by EastCoast
There was a ridiculously good deal on Humble Bundle a couple months back for Shadowrun Legends fiction. So I'm working my way through book 2 of the Secret Powers series. I highly doubt I will ever make it through all 42 books, but it is a good bit of fun, light reading.

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07 Jan 2024 00:27 - 07 Jan 2024 08:19 #341491 by Cranberries
When I wake up at 3:00 am which is every night I've been reading Maybe You should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, a therapist memoir. It's pretty good, but sometimes the patient stories she tells feel a little too made for TV. But I'm really enjoying it and feel like less of a bad client after she talks about her patients.

“But part of getting to know yourself is to unknow yourself—to let go of the limiting stories you’ve told yourself about who you are so that you aren’t trapped by them, so you can live your life and not the story you’ve been telling yourself about your life.”


www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/59181770-m...therapist-and-our-li
Last edit: 07 Jan 2024 08:19 by Cranberries.

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22 Jan 2024 10:53 #341603 by DarthJoJo
Jess Walters’ The Cold Millions

I’ve actively kept up Walters’ new releases since he spoke to my college journalism class. He has a talent for integrating historical characters into his fiction while threading the needle between deifying them and showing their feet of clay but with the sensibilities of a pulp writer’s love of action and violence.

Millions dives into the labor fights in Spokane in the early twentieth century. It’s a political novel with a clear point of view tipped in the very title but lives it through its characters.

It’s good stuff and a compelling read.
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14 Feb 2024 12:50 #341780 by dysjunct
MINISTRY FOR THE FUTURE by Kim Stanley Robinson. Climate-themed sci-fi (cli-fi?) about the attempt to avert disaster. Humanity largely succeeds, which is nicely optimistic. It has a few questionable elements, like putting climate credits on a blockchain (no mention of the eco-catastrophy of crypto generally), but I think that is maybe an artifact of being written when crypto was new and exciting. I find Robinson's writing mostly flat. I like the science, and the big scope, but the characters and plots don't grab me at all. E.g. I read his entire Mars Trilogy, and I couldn't tell you a thing that happened in it other than "Mars gets terraformed." I think a space elevator fell at some point.

For this book, the science and visionary approach gets 4/5, the plot and characters get 2/5, so let's split the difference and give it a 3/5 overall.
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14 Feb 2024 17:42 - 14 Feb 2024 17:48 #341787 by Cranberries
Some of the asymmetrical warfare in that book seems to be showing up in Ukraine.

I enjoyed it while not disagreeing with your criticisms.



I am reading Ross Gay's The Book of Delights which his basically a bunch of good blog posts that take my mind off of the low grade seasonal depression.
Last edit: 14 Feb 2024 17:48 by Cranberries.
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