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Old 01-01-2020, 09:03 AM
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Khadaji's Whatcha Reading Thread - January 2020 edition


Here it is... the Roaring Twenties once again! Let's make this decade count!

So Whacha all reading?

I am reading:

The Misfit Mage by Michael Taggart, it is his first book and is a bit rough but it has ineresting characters, magic and a fierce kitten.


^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Khadaji was one of the earlier members of SDMB, and he was well-known as a kindly person who always had something encouraging to say, particularly in the self improvement threads. He was also a voracious, omnivorous reader, who started these threads way back in the Stone Age of the early 2000s. Consequently when he suddenly and quite unexpectedly passed away in 2013, we decided to rename this thread in his honor and to keep his memory, if not his ghost, alive.
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Old 01-01-2020, 09:05 AM
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Old year, old thread: Buh-bye 2019
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Old 01-01-2020, 10:39 AM
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1984 by George Orwell. I haven't read it since high school.
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Old 01-01-2020, 04:20 PM
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Just finished Looking Backward, by Edward Bellamy. Meh.

Now I'm reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.
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Old 01-01-2020, 10:15 PM
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Just went through all the Khadaji threads for the year and counted. I read 56 books this year, not counting ones I forgot to enter (there were a couple of months when I didn't list anything, but I know I read something then).

A friend of mine kept a spreadsheet of all her books last year, and inspired me to do that this year. I'm interested to see how it turns out!

Anyway, now I'm reading A Little Hatred, a Joe Abercrombie grimhumor fantasy. So far, it's doing the Abercrombie thing exactly, which is reasonably entertaining but nothing amazing. We'll see how it goes.
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Old 01-01-2020, 10:15 PM
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Just zipped through an old favorite of mine, Joe Haldeman's Tool of the Trade, a Cold War sf/espionage thriller about a Soviet deep-cover agent in Boston who discovers a practical method of mind control, and then must go on the lam, pursued by both the CIA and the KGB. Haldeman doesn't always write great endings, but this book's is perfect.

I've now begun an audiobook (45 hours long!) of the well-reviewed bio Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. So far, so good. Apparently he was a brat as a kid and showed very little interest in art until he dropped out of school.

Best New Year's wishes to all my fellow Doper bibliophiles!
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Old 01-01-2020, 10:16 PM
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Oh, and here's my customary thread for your Top Ten books from last year: https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...d.php?t=887688
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Old 01-01-2020, 10:16 PM
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A friend of mine kept a spreadsheet of all her books last year, and inspired me to do that this year. I'm interested to see how it turns out!
I keep track with the Goodreads Challenge.
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Old 01-02-2020, 07:53 AM
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I read 43 books last year, an all time low since I started tracking. There's been a downward trend.
I haven't quite got started yet this year, but the last book I read in 2019 was Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October. I'm certain I've read it before, but it's been so long I got to experience it all over again, and it was wonderful.
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Old 01-02-2020, 09:09 AM
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I read 43 books last year, an all time low since I started tracking. There's been a downward trend.
I haven't quite got started yet this year, but the last book I read in 2019 was Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October. I'm certain I've read it before, but it's been so long I got to experience it all over again, and it was wonderful.
I love that book! It's weird and wonderful. And I was fortunate to hear Zelazny read all of it when he attended a con here,
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Old 01-02-2020, 08:53 PM
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Just finished my first re-read in almost 30 years of Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, which spawned a written sequel and a movie empire.

Book is not bad, but more often I continued it to see how the characters differ from book to movie (some who die, live, some who live, die and some are simply not in the movie or book). He does spend a lot of the second half having Malcolm (read the author) ranting about science and how it's messing things up. Since no one is 'intelligent' enough to argue with him in the book, it becomes more of a screed than a storyline, IMHO.

Still, it kept me turning the pages and worth the read...but I can wait another 20 years or so for the next go at it (maybe by then we will have real dinosaurs....)
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Old 01-03-2020, 09:35 AM
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Just finished my first re-read in almost 30 years of Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, which spawned a written sequel and a movie empire.

Book is not bad, but more often I continued it to see how the characters differ from book to movie (some who die, live, some who live, die and some are simply not in the movie or book). He does spend a lot of the second half having Malcolm (read the author) ranting about science and how it's messing things up. Since no one is 'intelligent' enough to argue with him in the book, it becomes more of a screed than a storyline, IMHO.

Still, it kept me turning the pages and worth the read...but I can wait another 20 years or so for the next go at it (maybe by then we will have real dinosaurs....)
Hammond was the most interesting difference to me. No kindly grandfather worried about his grandkids here, instead a corporate monster concerned about his image and what this chaos was going to do to HIM.
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Old 01-03-2020, 11:43 AM
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Finished The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. It was very good.

Now I'm reading Davita's Harp, by Chaim Potok.
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Old 01-04-2020, 10:18 AM
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Just finished A Little Hatred, by Joe Abercrombie.


Abercrombie is Abercrombie: violent, funny, and deeply not-even-kidding cynical about humanity and politics and power. Combine mid-19th-century London and late 18th-century Paris and early 20th-century Russia, plus Vikings, and if you've taken the absolute worst of all eras, you'll have this novel.

When I read LeCarre I want to hide under the bed; when I read Abercrombie I want to shower.

My fifth-grader read this review over my shoulder and asked, "Did you like this book?" I thought a moment and said, "Yes."
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Old 01-05-2020, 12:02 AM
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This week, I started Napoleon: A Life, by Andrew Roberts.
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Old 01-05-2020, 09:53 AM
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Finished Davita's Harp, by Chaim Potok. Meh, bordering on not recommended. A real disappointment, considering how much I've enjoyed the other books by him I've read.

Now I'm reading Connections, by James Burke.
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Old 01-05-2020, 11:57 AM
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Now I'm reading Connections, by James Burke.
It's a bit dry and his ending wrap up is quite dated, which you probably know if you've seen the TV series. But it's a good read.
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Old 01-05-2020, 02:32 PM
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It's a bit dry and his ending wrap up is quite dated, which you probably know if you've seen the TV series. But it's a good read.
I haven't seen the TV series. I'm reading an updated edition published in 2007. I'm enjoying it quite a bit so far.
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Old 01-05-2020, 05:24 PM
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I'm currently reading N.K. Jemisen's How Long 'Til Black Future Month? I think I got it for Christmas in 2018, but I seem to have a hard time reading real books on paper these days so it spent a very long time sitting on my nightstand waiting for me. I'm about 20% in and enjoying it. It's amazing to me how she can paint such vivid characters and setting in so few words.
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:45 PM
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I'm currently reading N.K. Jemisen's How Long 'Til Black Future Month? I think I got it for Christmas in 2018, but I seem to have a hard time reading real books on paper these days so it spent a very long time sitting on my nightstand waiting for me. I'm about 20% in and enjoying it. It's amazing to me how she can paint such vivid characters and setting in so few words.
Heh--I got it for my wife for Christmas in 2018, and I think it's been sitting on her nightstand as well. Jemisen is amazing, but she's not light reading.

Unlike Cold Storage, that is.

Exhaustively researched and scrupulously faithful to the latest scientific understanding, this book is--

--kidding! It's about space-mushrooms that turn people into zombies!

Maybe I shoulda put that into spoilers, but that's in the prologue.

It took me awhile to descend far enough into the silliness of the premise, and to get past some truly clunky dialogue, that I could enjoy the book. Once I did, though, I could appreciate this bog-standard apocalypse-thriller enlivened with a pretty decent sense of humor. It's not gonna win any awards, but it was an enjoyable way to pass the time.
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Old 01-05-2020, 11:18 PM
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I haven't seen the TV series. I'm reading an updated edition published in 2007. I'm enjoying it quite a bit so far.
You should see it if you get the chance, it's a fabulous show and Burke uses that dry British wit to make it even more fun to watch.
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Old 01-06-2020, 08:24 AM
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Started today on The Seventh Bride, T. Kingfisher's retelling of Bluebeard. With bonus hedgehog.
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Old 01-06-2020, 08:40 AM
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Finished Davita's Harp, by Chaim Potok. Meh, bordering on not recommended. A real disappointment, considering how much I've enjoyed the other books by him I've read.

Now I'm reading Connections, by James Burke.
I loved the TV series. The audiobook of Connections is derived from the book you're reading, though, not directly from the TV show. I agree with DZed about it being dated -- the bit about Bell Labs being the kind of thing we create in order to create the future seems really sad when you consider that not only is Bell Labs gone, but so are a great many others, disappeared in the unsung Great Research Lab Holocaust of the 1990s -- not only Bell, but GTE Labs, IBM Watson, and others that died when their companies imploded -- Kodak, Polaroid, American Optical...


Burke has written other, much more recent books. If you liked Connections, try

The Day the Universe Changed -- another tie-in to a PBS series
The Pinball Effect -- This book has an interesting unique "hyperlink" format
Circles
American Connections
The Knowledge Web
Chances
The Axemaker's Gift
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Old 01-06-2020, 09:44 AM
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I loved the TV series. The audiobook of Connections is derived from the book you're reading, though, not directly from the TV show. I agree with DZed about it being dated -- the bit about Bell Labs being the kind of thing we create in order to create the future seems really sad when you consider that not only is Bell Labs gone, but so are a great many others, disappeared in the unsung Great Research Lab Holocaust of the 1990s -- not only Bell, but GTE Labs, IBM Watson, and others that died when their companies imploded -- Kodak, Polaroid, American Optical...


Burke has written other, much more recent books. If you liked Connections, try

The Day the Universe Changed -- another tie-in to a PBS series
The Pinball Effect -- This book has an interesting unique "hyperlink" format
Circles
American Connections
The Knowledge Web
Chances
The Axemaker's Gift
The Axemaker's Gift he wrote with another dude and, for me, it came off as weirdly anti technology. Maybe it was just me but the vibe was very Terminator, technology will kill us.
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Old 01-06-2020, 09:45 AM
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Started today on The Seventh Bride, T. Kingfisher's retelling of Bluebeard. With bonus hedgehog.
Woohoo! I think you will like it!
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Old 01-07-2020, 10:48 AM
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Finished King Arthur: The Making of the Legend by Nicholas J. Higham. I was a bit disappointed. Higham does take extraordinary pains to examine the available evidence in excruciating detail. His dismissal of the Sarmation and Dalmation claims for the origin of King Arthur or the Arthurian stories is by no means cavalier, but you can see his leanings in the way he describes things. What disappointed me was that I was expecting a similar examination (and probably dismissal) of the many possible "historical Arthurs" that have been proposed since 1980. I didn't get that. Geoffrey Ashe's contender, Riothamus, is dismissed in two pages. (Ashe, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, has been writing about King Arthur and archaeological works set in his approximate time since about the time I was born) Norma Lorre Goodrich, who had proposed a different contender, is put off in a couple of paragraphs. The other possibilities and their supporters aren't even explicitly mentioned.

Spoiler alert

Higham's position is that Arthur never existed as a historical figure, nor did any historical figure act as the nucleus of the Arthur legend. His basic argument, which has been used many times before, is essentially that there is no mention of him in the relevant contemporary documents.

There's more to it, of course. Higham goes into great depth about the authors of these records, their nature, why they were written, and to what purpose. He points out what we should expect to see if Arthur were real, and shows how many of the even earlier records that might show a Roman Arthur (for instance) weren't available to the framers of the Legend. But, at its heart, it's still the Argument from Silence.

I still would've liked to have seen all those Arthur Proposers to get the same nitpicking and arguments thrown against them that they devolved upon others. I'm disappointed that I didn't get the academic bloodbath I was expecting.


Now I'm reading The Godzilla FAQ by Brian Solomon, a gift from my cousins who clearly know me. It's a surprisingly heavy book about the Big G and his movies.
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Old 01-07-2020, 11:08 AM
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I loved the TV series. The audiobook of Connections is derived from the book you're reading, though, not directly from the TV show. I agree with DZed about it being dated -- the bit about Bell Labs being the kind of thing we create in order to create the future seems really sad when you consider that not only is Bell Labs gone, but so are a great many others, disappeared in the unsung Great Research Lab Holocaust of the 1990s -- not only Bell, but GTE Labs, IBM Watson, and others that died when their companies imploded -- Kodak, Polaroid, American Optical...


Burke has written other, much more recent books. If you liked Connections, try

The Day the Universe Changed -- another tie-in to a PBS series
The Pinball Effect -- This book has an interesting unique "hyperlink" format
Circles
American Connections
The Knowledge Web
Chances
The Axemaker's Gift
Thanks for the recommendations. I enjoy reading this type of book.

Finished Connections by James Burke, which I liked a lot.

Now I'm reading Exit Strategy, by Martha Wells.
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Old 01-07-2020, 10:11 PM
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Started today on The Seventh Bride, T. Kingfisher's retelling of Bluebeard. With bonus hedgehog.
A bit of an aside, but I find her to be a very entertaining Twitter follow.
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Old 01-08-2020, 08:19 AM
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She is pretty funny! I'm really enjoying The Seventh Bride too. I should be done by now, but can't get more than a few reading minutes here or there.
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Old 01-08-2020, 10:27 AM
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Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest in Pursuit of Coronado - Douglas Preston As the title says, the author and two other completely inept guys attempted to retrace on horseback, Coronado's trip across the badlands of New Mexico and Arizona to find the mythical "seven cities of gold". What they estimated to take a month or so turned into a much longer and much more difficult ordeal, as even today those areas are formidable for all but expert trekkers.
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Old 01-08-2020, 02:23 PM
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Finished Exit Strategy by Martha Wells, which is a Murderbot novella. Excellent writing, just like the first three.

Now I'm reading A Stone for a Pillow, by Madeleine L'Engle.
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Old 01-10-2020, 09:08 AM
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Finished A Stone for a Pillow, by Madeleine L'Engle. It was excellent. Favorite anecdote: The author was signing a contract for movie rights to A Wrinkle in Time. The contract, according to her, would give the studio all movie rights "throughout the universe, forever." With a red pen, she added an asterisk and the words "except Sagittarius and the Andromeda galaxy" before signing it. The studio reps signed it too, but she heard later there was talk at the studio about the clause she'd added. What did she know they didn't?

Now I'm reading The Postman, by David Brin.

Last edited by Dendarii Dame; 01-10-2020 at 09:09 AM.
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Old 01-10-2020, 09:47 AM
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My first completed book of the year is Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris, which was a pleasant surprise. I absolutely loved B.A. Paris's debut novel, Behind Closed Doors. Then I read her sophomore novel, The Breakdown, and it was just plain not good. Bring Me Back was her third novel, so when it came out, I waited a little while to see how other people rated and reviewed it. And it wasn't well-received. In fact, people rated it a good deal worse than her second novel (the bad one)! So I figured the author was a one-hit wonder, and decided to try her third book just in case it was good, fully expecting it not to be. But it was.

The premise is that the main character's g/f had disappeared 12 years ago, and now she seems to have returned. "Seems to" because she doesn't actually walk in and introduce herself; instead, she starts leaving him little clues and menacing emails. The book was split into three parts, and the first part of the book was every bit as strong as her debut novel. The other two parts weren't quite as good, but still good enough to keep me wide-eyed and slack-jawed, furiously turning the pages because I'm invested in the story and curious about how it's all going to resolve. B.A. Paris writes thrillers, and while I think Gillian Flynn is the gold standard for thrillers, Paris is one of the better thriller-writers that I've come across. So glad to see she hasn't lost her touch!
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Old 01-10-2020, 11:52 AM
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Today I read Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma, a story about a family moving back to their ancestral farm, where (as legend has it) a dragon sleeps. I was underwhelmed.
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Old 01-10-2020, 06:49 PM
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Finished Crooked Kingdom, the sequel to Six of Crows. It's a worthy sequel to Six of Crows, building on what works in that novel. There's a misstep near the end, an event handled in a more cursory and emotionally unaffecting manner than I'd like; but other than that, it was thoroughly satisfying. If "young adult fantasy heist" has any appeal whatsoever to you, I definitely recommend this one!
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Old 01-11-2020, 11:29 PM
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I'm taking a break from my audiobook of Van Gogh: The Life about a fifth of the way through, and have started a novel, Lara Prescott's The Secrets We Kept, about the CIA effort to secretly distribute Dr. Zhivago within the USSR in the Fifties. I like it so far. I'm also starting to re-read Isaac Asimov's classic Foundation Trilogy, and am digging it, too. Haven't read it in decades.
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Old 01-12-2020, 02:19 AM
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I'm also starting to re-read Isaac Asimov's classic Foundation Trilogy, and am digging it, too. Haven't read it in decades.
Same here. I read it in the early '70s and loved it. I'm always interested too, nowadays, in things like, say, pre-Internet sci-fi that goes forward into an Internet-less universe.
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Old 01-12-2020, 01:55 PM
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Finished The Postman, by David Brin. Meh. Too predictable.

Now I'm reading Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, by Peg Kehret.
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Old 01-12-2020, 08:17 PM
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Same here. I read it in the early '70s and loved it. I'm always interested too, nowadays, in things like, say, pre-Internet sci-fi that goes forward into an Internet-less universe.
Yes. Other than Hari Seldon's pocket calculator, I don't think there's been a reference to computers yet, despite references to nuclear power plants, vast modern libraries and starships.
  #40  
Old 01-12-2020, 08:55 PM
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In the book I'm reading, Genghis Khan's soldiers defeat an army many times their size, and the only survivor is a general who flees. The general is captured, but before he's executed, he declares the tragedy of an eagle like him being killed by ants.

This so incenses Genghis that he allows the general to compete in single combat against Genghis's best friend, the best archer of the Mongols. The general points out he's defenseless, so Genghis orders a soldier to give the general a bow and arrows.

"Just the bow, please," the general responds. He snatches the Mongol archer's arrows out of the air and fires them back. The archer shoots the general's arrows to deflect them, twisting the arrowheads together; the general shoots straight through a returning arrow.

Finally, as the Mongol archer twists to avoid a shot, the general fires a second arrow straight into his back. But he's removed the arrowhead! "I could've killed you, you know." Instead of taking the granted mercy, he begs mercy for a child captured by the Mongols; and the fight is back on.

Arrows fly from the Mongols bow like a chain, and one of them catches the general in the chest--but the Mongol also removed the arrowhead!

The general accepts defeat graciously. Genghis Khan invites the general to join his army. The general begins to sing a poem of praise for the Mongols.

***************

The book is A Hero Born, and I don't quite know what to think of it, but it's pretty enjoyable. Apparently it's huge in China. I'd never heard of it before.
  #41  
Old 01-13-2020, 08:22 AM
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Currently passing the time with Stephen King at the Movies: a complete history of the film and television adaptations from the Master of Horror. It's clumsily written and I've caught more than a few errors, but it's interesting to find out about all the movies I never heard of, and it's full of color pictures.
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Old 01-13-2020, 09:36 AM
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Finished Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, by Peg Kehret, which was okay.

Now I'm reading The Pursuit of Love, by Nancy Mitford.
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Old 01-13-2020, 02:24 PM
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I have a whole love seat (2-cushion couch) of books I've bought but either never got around to reading or read part of it and never finished. Starting to work my way through the pile.

Just finished [B]The Twilight Warriors[/B], by Robert Gandt, dealing with the battle of Okinawa in 1945. Not massively detailed, about 80% deals with a group of pilots on the carrier Intrepid and their battle with the Japanese Kamikazes. The ground campaign, which involved hundreds of thousands of men is not covered in any great detail and the sufferings of the civilian population (an estimated 100,000+ killed) rates barely a mention. Still, it kept me turning the pages all the way to the end, so there is that. If you know nothing about the battle and like having it told from a first-person POV, you could do worse.

Now starting Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, which shows how big business will use 'science' to obfuscate and refute scientific conclusions, starting with the "Big Tobacco" campaign against the science showing smoking increases the risk of cancer (and other diseases), and progressing to Climate change and other issues where corporations and science tend to butt heads. Only 25 pages in, but looks interesting and we'll see if it leads to a good read or not.

Last edited by The Stainless Steel Rat; 01-13-2020 at 02:24 PM.
  #44  
Old 01-14-2020, 08:12 AM
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Started today on Anyone by Charles Soule, a sci-fi novel about what happens when a scientist develops the technology to transfer human consciousness into different bodies. So far, so good!
  #45  
Old 01-14-2020, 10:44 AM
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Finished The Pursuit of Love, by Nancy Mitford, which was excellent.

Now I'm reading Good Words to You, by John Ciardi.
  #46  
Old 01-14-2020, 01:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dung Beetle View Post
Started today on Anyone by Charles Soule, a sci-fi novel about what happens when a scientist develops the technology to transfer human consciousness into different bodies. So far, so good!
That's a plot point in the military sf novel Old Man's War by John Scalzi, which I really liked.
  #47  
Old 01-16-2020, 11:16 AM
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The Borgias - Power and Fortune, Paul Strathern

The remarkable history of the Borgia family, starting in Spain in the 14th century with Alonso de Borja, who eventually became Pope. His nephew. Rodrigo also entered the church and rose to the Papacy himself. Here's where it starts to get crazy. Despite his vow of celibacy, Rodrigo had seven children, by several different women, whom he openly acknowledged. Rodrigo spend much of his time scheming to advance the interests of his children amidst the violence of the Italy during Renaissance. The Borgias became notorious for their violence and some were even accused of incest, in particular Rodrigo's son Cesare.

A rich history, generally well-written and enjoyable to read.
  #48  
Old 01-16-2020, 09:59 PM
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Finished A Hero Born. It's apparently a megabestseller, not just in China but worldwide; overall the author's works have sold more than 100 million copies, and AFAICT bear a large role in popularizing Wuxia/Kung Fu as a genre.

I expected, reading this book, to be immersed in China's history, in courtly manners and intrigue, in poetry and lovely descriptions of landscapes. That was all there, but scarcer than I thought there'd be. What I wasn't prepared for was the nonstop action using metaphorical names (I opened to a random page just now to find an example, and within three paragraphs a character "tapped her foot and spun into a Nodding Phoenix," and her opponent counters by "thrust[ing] his palm in a Drive the Boat Downstream.") I wasn't ready for the supernatural combat. I wasn't ready for the humor.

That said, as fun as this was, I didn't find rococo plot especially engaging. I might read the others as they're translated, but I don't think I'll seek them out. If I do, I'll keep a cheat sheet of characters handy: as happened to me with The Count of Monte Cristo, I found myself losing track of the large cast.
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Old 01-16-2020, 10:02 PM
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I just finished reading Tales from the Gas Station and its sequel. Those were the funniest books I've read in a long, long time. Very similar to the Welcome to Nightvale podcast.
  #50  
Old 01-17-2020, 08:48 AM
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Finished Cadwell Turnbull's debut science fiction novel The Lesson. Interesting but diffuse novel about our First Encounter with an alien race that has occasional disproportionate overreaction to perceived offenses. That part is pretty clearly an sf take on colonialism as perceived by the colonized. I'll be meeting the author tonight.

Not sure what to read next. I've got a stack of books, and I'll probably be getting others this weekend at Arisia.
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