What are YOU readin'?

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Originally posted by King Real:
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Originally posted by xen0phile:
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Originally posted by Splitcoil:
I read Banks's THE WASP FACTORY today. Holy fuckernuts.


Damn, I want to read some of his stuff: never actually read any yet, I've just heard good things about him. Fuck I hate how slowly I read. Fucking brain. Fuck you, brain!


THE WASP FACTORY was pretty controversial on initial release. and established banks, giving him the opportunity over the years to do whatever he wanted. personally i didn't like it - not that it shocked me, just that it did little for me. probably helps if its your 1st banks, i'd read a number of his later novels by the time i got to wasp factory.


It's not that it's shocking, but that it's so immersive. It pulls you down into the character so well that he can be low key about all the awful shit in his brain and it's still powerful. Not wonderful by any means, but I was coming off a long string of fairly blah books and appreciated the suck-you-in quality.
quote:
Originally posted by Splitcoil:
It's not that it's shocking, but that it's so immersive. It pulls you down into the character so well that he can be low key about all the awful shit in his brain and it's still powerful. Not wonderful by any means, but I was coming off a long string of fairly blah books and appreciated the suck-you-in quality.


at the time there was a certain amount of shock factor to its release. but then it is about 30 years old. so different times.

quote:
Originally posted by Fashionpolice:
Just put Moxyland into my backpack for my commute. New job location, so I'll be taking the train until I've sorted out where I can park on the days I want to drive in.


i enjoyed moxyland, but kind of wanted more from it by the end. which was kind of frustrating.
picked up shining girls at the weekend. seems to be getting some serious promotion - major chain super markets selling the hard back for a fiver. bargain.
The thing about 'a hologram for a king' is I'm 200 pages in and nothing has happened. They're waiting for the saudi arabian king to come and look at their proposal but so far he hasn't deigned to visit so they just hang around in a just started city and wait. Only a funny confident writer would take on a story with no action and make it work.
The Wasp Factory made quite an impression on me, but I much preferred Walking On Glass. It's so long since I read it I couldn't explain why; possibly it was because of the more overtly SF themes he introduced. I must dig it out and read it again.

I have been reading something completely different over the last month or so: the " Narrow Dog " books written by Terry Darlington. He was a marketing consultant until he retired (he ran a fairly well-known company called Research Associates) and he lives in Stone, the town where I lived as a child. After retiring, he and his wife Monica bought a narrowboat and decided to sail it across the English Channel and down through France to Carcassonne (book 1), down the east coast of America (book 2) and around England's industrial north (book 3). They took their whippet Jim along for the ride (the narrow dog of the title.) If you've ever seen a narrowboat, you'll realise that they must be completely mad to attempt such things.

Darlington's a natural comic writer with a fine line in character description. The star of each book is very definitely Jim, and his character is adorable. I'm currently half way through book 2, Narrow Dog to Indian River, and our heroes are about to enter the Great Dismal Swamp...

best,
Chris H
I finally managed to finish Reamde. It took me some time to get into the story, but I think it was worth it - great fun.

Although you could hear the cogwheels of the story machine click into place from time to time - to have so many differently talented people at exactly the right spot in the World at exactly that precise hour sometimes makes you want to take a guess at the next big coincidence instead of just reading.

Picked up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle again - it was ditched last summer due to the arrival of several volumes of Game of Thrones. I'll never quite understand why Murakami's books are so readable despite being filled with characters, you really don't want to identify with, and a story that goes nowhere in a rather convoluted way. But they are - and I'm happily following Toru Okada on his search for the cat gone missing.
I have been reading:



Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot.

Funny thing, the cover and flaps of the book are slathered in more praise and quotes than i have ever seen before, so much so i didn't even find the synopsis when i first picked it up.

It is a good book though.

The story is set in some not-too-distant future after a massive wave of destruction (brought on by climate change and rampant technological advancements) swept across the world. Weird shit happens in this post-apocalyptic world: DJ's use nano-technology to control people's bodies, New York is being rebuilt on an island near Seattle (where most of this book is set, btw), ancient movie stars live in giant mansions with an army of clones, people get visions of some guy calling himself "the last Dude" sitting in a desert with a magical fridge while writing a giant message with rocks.

In short, this book is weird and i've no idea where it is all heading, despite being in the last 100 or so pages of it. But it is well written and sketches an interesting world.


This reads like a serial children's cartoon, and I love it. It's a sad thing for me, though, because this is the last of Pynchon's books for me to read, and I kinda feel like he isn't going to be writing another. However, at over a thousand pages, I feel confident I can stretch this one out.

As an author, his body of work is monumental.

Literally.
I just finished a quick swing through the Madeleine L'Engle trilogy: A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. They are interesting and well done, but there isn't much in the way of depth of character or character development. I think the only other time I'd been through them was when my mom read them to the family during a driving trip in the U.S. southwestern states.

I know what I won't be reading next. That would be the October 1, 1995 paperback version of strange days by James Cameron listed on Amazon.

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Originally posted by Metro Dynamics:
In Touch, war (Vietnam) correspondence by John Steinbeck IV (the son).

Nothing equals Herr's Dispatches.

The search goes on.


This. Although if I have one criticism of Dispatches, the Khe Sanh section drags on a bit too much.

Might want to check out Page's (yes, that Page) Derailed In Uncle Ho's Victory Garden.
quote:
Originally posted by Metro Dynamics:
Perfect. Looking forward to it.


It's set after the war, when Tim goes back to SE Asia ("And I've been back to South East Asia/But the answer sure ain't there/But I'm driftin' north/To check things out again" - Cold Chisel, "Khe Sanh").

It's a nice coda to Dispatches, sort of, with Page checking out what happened after the conflicts, and sort of coming to terms with the loss of the mates who never made it back - Dana Stone and Sean Flynn, mostly.

Page being English, it's full of dry wit at times.
You blurb it well. I'm excited.

At first I was surprised to find Herr hadn't written much after Dispatches — but . . . hard to self-compete with that.

My grandfather (he got an early start) was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, led River Division 553 . . . I found out in my teens that he'd half-written a book about his three tours. As writing it's interesting, certainly not phosphorescent prose like Herr's, but factual and of the opposite ("Mission") viewpoint. Maybe I'll post it somewhere here. It's partly what got me hooked on the subject. Then a devastating exhibit came through the Oakland Museum of California titled simply, powerfully: "1968."

An involuntary nausea hit me pretty hard when I learned that at Khe Sanh a museum has been erected. Co do sao vang flying high. Just ghastly. But inevitable. As it will be when China does the same over Tranquility Base.
My uncle got drafted ("conscripted" as it was officially termed down here - National Service.)

He nearly killed his Regimental Sergeant Major. Oh, not out of malice or fragging or anything. Gough Whitlam got elected into PM and the RSM stood at the barracks' door in Singleton while they were training and said "National Service has been repealed. Any of you Nashos who don't wanna be here can leave." They nearly trampled the RSM to death. Uncle hopped in the Holden and was homing that even, and hasn't worn hair above shoulder length since.

It's been a while since I've read Victory Garden, and I was cripplingly ill at the time, so I may be over-selling it. But it's fascinating for someone to go back, especially Page who, quote, "Lost a chunk of brain the size of an orange" helping some wounded marines into a helo. That's mentioned in Dispatches.

There's a Long Tan museum, which was Aus's big battle, the one we ran more or less on our own. Long Tan was a helluva a battle; about 700 Diggers against 2000 NVA. No offence, but if the Americans listened to the Aussies, we might've won. Westmoreland wanting to run manoeuvre warfare in the jungle; that simply doesn't work (Morshead found that out when he moved from North Africa to New Guinea in WWII.)

There's a good doco on it, in full, posted on Youtube in HD and narrated by Sam Worthington. Just punch in Long Tan documentary, and you'll find it.

Another, more operational side to the story, is Gary McKay's Sleeping With Your Ears Open: On Patrol With The Australian SAS. Some hair-raising stuff (wandering into a VC trainyard, for example, and spending the night.) These were the guys your LRRPs were based on. I have a PDF of it, if you want it.

Another tangential one is The Fire Never Dies by Richard Sterling. Ok, so it's mostly about chilli (yes, the spice,) but it's by a Vietnam veteran who sorta comes to term with it through the book. (Brilliant opening sentence: "At the mouth of the Mekong River I stood on the fore deck and watched the sun come up on the last day of the long conflict the Vietnamese have come to call the 'American War'...")
Worthington, good choice. I'll love the book and doc, I'm sure. Strong interest.

Spices: grandpa had a favorite Captain would always sex up C-rats with "local produce and his inventory of sauces."

Small excerpt (again, blue collar prose):

After being at the Sugar Mill for a few weeks, my sailors were finding that the ladies just outside the compound would convenience them for a few dollars. There were just a few problems. Most of them were married to protective husbands, some were VC and some had various types of VD. In an effort to protect my sailors, the notion of a private brothel came to mind. As base camp petty officer, Bos could do it all and did. One day I asked him if he could locate some women willing to participate in the venture.

He assured me that he could comply. I then asked my First Class Hospital Corpsman if he could cure the clap. He opened a pharmacy chest made of two 2.75mm rocket boxes and said, “Skipper, I can cure anything.” With that we opened the private RD 553 whorehouse. I negotiated prices at $3 or one C rat box per event. The women were quarantined for 5 days while “doc” shot them up, and they were not allowed to leave the camp. Least of all they were not allowed to work at the army artillery base 1 miles away because it was filled with 500 101st Airborne who, by my thinking would not be so considerate as ourselves.

The girls took care of business and my guys kept them busy, a fair deal.

Associated with our whorehouse were a few rules. One rule was that while RD 553 sailors were downriver getting boats fixed they were not to visit houses of pleasure at Ben Luc. One sailor failed to comply and the makings of an example were provided. I asked “doc” about his largest needle and how much penicillin it would take to cure our man. Doc showed me a large and cruel instrument and said that three shots of 1 cc each would save the day. I indicated that 5 cc each day for 5 days be administered over my Jeep at morning quarters would be more to my liking. We mustered the troops each day and “doc” did the honors. After the third day I halted the proceedings because the objectives were achieved. Result, no more clap from outside. Wives and mothers may think the plan flawed, but inside they might thank me. The troops did. When we left the sugar mill and moved our base camp to AMI pontoons under the GO DA HAU Bridge, we took the women with us. They were still there doing yeoman duty when I turned the patrol area over to LT Paul Canady on 9 Feb 69.


He never gave it a title. I'm thinking of calling it Hard Spirits.
mr penumbra's 24 hour bookstore - robin sloan - downloaded this and sloan;s annabel scheme novella a while ago, after reading extracts online. read the novella the same weekend, but had been saving penumbra. was ill last week, which left me knackered at the weekend. so spent the time reading this. clay is unemployed after the bagel company he was web designer for went bust. wandering the streets of san francisco he stumbles upon a "help wanted" ad in the window of the titular book store. he gets the job and becomes bemused by the strange private collection at the back of the store. despite being warned not to look he finds the books are all filled with code and only available to members. from there he sets out to discover the secret. the strength of this is the slow build of mystery coupled with the cast of characters - the girl from google he starts dating, his model making room mate from industrial light and magic, the millionaire he befriended in school because they read the same fantasy novels. scheme was a much quirkier immediate read, but it had to be for novella, extended to a novel there is an easier going charm to the work. i enjoyed a lot.
Connie Willis' Blackout was decent, but irritating as hell in that it's part 1 of 2(?) and cliffhangers you pretty damn harshly. I immediately reserved All Clear but suspect it won't hit library shelves for me to pick up until Wednesday at the earliest. Grrrrr…
The most charming book I've seen in forever: Kafka's Soup by Mark Crick. A chef friend on my food geek board brought it up and I just had to have it.

It has recipes for this and that, told in the style of various authors. Thus, Rich Chocolate Cake in the style of Irvine Welsh. Sole à la Dieppoise in the style of Jorge Luis Borges. Cheese Toast in the style of Harold Pinter (I fucking howled).

Etc.

If you pick it up, get the softcover version with 17 recipes, rather than the hardcover with only 14. I got it on eBay from a UK seller and it happened to be signed by the author and everything, in quite good condition.
shining girls - lauren beukes - even though i think this has only just been published in the US, i've had it sitting for about a month or so from when it was released in the UK. been keen to dedicate some solid time to reading it, especially given the risk of spoilers for this one. but not had time, till weekend there, read it in 48 hours. i can't say too much about it as that in turn risks someone else encountering spoilers. but that is beukes with three very different novels to her name. this one is much more serial killer thriller category, though the elements of weird/sf do creep in. this is probably comparable to michael marshall at his weirdest - though not as weird as michael marshall smith at his weirdest

picking at "lets all go to the science fiction disco", the 1st in series of "adventure rocketship" anthologies. i think it is pitched as a magazine, but it is a pretty solid little paperback book. this one has the theme of music, mixing articles, interviews and short stories. covering the orb to janelle monae, interviews with farren and moorcock, and stories by the likes of maughan and tidhar. only read one story, couple of articles, will be interested to see how it hangs together as a whole collection.
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde



Excellent writing. Every page includes quotable lines - most delicious. The down side: I became a little bored by the mid section describing Gray's knowledge acquisition of period finaries and would have much preffered more sordid foriegn debauchery. Still, a classic.
Crazy River: A Plunge into Africa - Richard Grant



A journalists attempt to make the Malagarasi river his own. A truly graphic tale of Grant's recent (2008) travels through Tanzania, Burundi, Congo and Rwanda interacting with the local populations whilost describing the brutal history and tough conditions which make Africa the aid nightmare that its come to be. A story of human kindness, war, tribal conflict and European interference. Very, very good indeed.
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Originally posted by propofolpete:
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.
My first Murakami. Very good so far.


I just finished it - wasn't my first, but definitely one of the best. That's one weirdly spun tale ...
Now reading Arthur & George by Julian Barnes. Still on the early pages, but seems full of potential.
quote:
Originally posted by Azorno:
quote:
Originally posted by propofolpete:
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.
My first Murakami. Very good so far.


I just finished it - wasn't my first, but definitely one of the best. That's one weirdly spun tale ...
Now reading Arthur & George by Julian Barnes. Still on the early pages, but seems full of potential.


Fully agree with the weird aspect. Liking that bit the most. Anything weird is good!
quote:
Originally posted by propofolpete:
quote:
Originally posted by Azorno:
quote:
Originally posted by propofolpete:
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.
My first Murakami. Very good so far.


I just finished it - wasn't my first, but definitely one of the best. That's one weirdly spun tale ...
Now reading Arthur & George by Julian Barnes. Still on the early pages, but seems full of potential.


Fully agree with the weird aspect. Liking that bit the most. Anything weird is good!


Agreed. Feels like moving to a parallel universe or something like that - you feel changed when the book is read.
Last night I started Ecko Rising which is the first novel by Danie Ware, who works for Forbidden Planet (I'm sure I'm not the only wigber who will have chatted to her at one UK event or another). The only reason I put the thing down last night was that I physically couldn't keep my eyes open any more. A really interesting plot that keeps on making staggering left turns (starts out police procedural, gets a bit future dystopia, turns into something like The Terminator then really switches lanes.) No idea where this one is going, but I'm really enjoying getting there.

Before that, Dracula Cha Cha Cha by Kim Newman. Came to the Anno Dracula books late (as in last year) but have hugely enjoyed spotting the references and allusions. (Puts on deep voice) "In a world where Jonathan Harker tried to fight Dracula and failed... Your favourite cinematic tropes are subverted." First book had Sherlock Holmes in a concentration camp in Surrey, the second had Biggles as Britain's undead ace fighter pilot. This one is La Dolce Vita with fangs. And a secret agent, who drives an Aston Martin and is a vampire, who introduces himself with the immortal words "The name's Bond. Hamish Bond..." There's even a bad guy and a fluffy white cat. Hilarious - and I hear the fourth book in the series comes out later in the year. Can't wait.

Before that, I read John Scalzi's Redshirts which starts off as a Star Trek pisstake, morphs into something extremely meta, and then ends up as a meditation on love and loss. There's some emotional and mature writing, and it's quite possibly the best thing Scalzi's ever written.

In non-fiction, I've binged. Having seen Rush twice in the last month I grabbed a couple of Neil Peart books. I've just started Traveling Music, which is an account of a road trip Rush's drummer went on a couple of years ago, but this journey is by car rather than by motorcycle, and as his CD collection plays on the car's sound system he focuses on the music he grew up with and gets rather autobiographical. This is mixed in with some interesting and introspective musings on just about anything that springs to mind, really.

I used to work in the Mansion at Bletchley Park when it was a BT training school, so I tend to buy anything and everything about the place that I find. Unfortunately I need to develop some quality filters for this, because Sinclair McKay's The Secret Life of Bletchley Park is boringly written, toadying to the upper classes and full of cliches, with distinctly right-wing sniffiness about Turing. It's the sort of book you'd get if a hack who wrote for the Mail on Sunday decided to churn something quick and dirty out about the place, in fact.

Far better is Alan Turing: The Enigma, by Andrew Hodges. It's an astonishingly deep look at Turing's life, and it's very obviously written by someone who actually understands the maths involved in Turing's work. Highly recommended.

By complete contrast, the other biography I'm reading at the moment is Ginger Geezer by Chris Welch of the Melody Maker and Lucian Randall. It's the story of the creator of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, the narrator of Tubular Bells, the author and presenter of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, and as Stephen Fry puts it, "One of the most talented, profligate, bizarre, absurd, infuriating, unfathomable and magnificent Englishmen ever to have drawn breath", Vivian Stanshall. I adored him as a small child; when I moved to Bristol I discovered that local landmark The Thekla was brought to the city by Stanshall's partner as somewhere he could stage performances. If you've never encountered the work of this (sadly, departed) genius then you are missing out.

Next on the stack, waiting to go, are (of course) The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (who has become a wigber favourite, it seems; somebody get her to sign up here!) and Mieville's Railsea. And about half a dozen others after that. So many books...

best,
Chris H

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