Page 15 of 15 FirstFirst ... 5131415
Results 421 to 440 of 440

Thread: Books!

  1. #421


    This will make you not want to have kids. Or raise them as the one kid in class who doesn't get a phone.

  2. #422
    Finally got around to reading Anathem. Hmm. Part of me wants to hate this book, and part of me wants to love it. I'm not sure what to make of it. First, the bad: Stephenson decides to needlessly invent a bunch of words (albeit cleverly constructed - I found myself using praxis instead of technology today) and it makes the book a bit of heavy going. He does the same with basic philosophical debates. He takes, for example, Platonic ideals and nominalism and makes up a bunch of pointless terminology and turns it into an academic holy war. The basic idea seems to be based strongly on themes from Canticle for Leibowitz though he definitely takes things in a very different direction. I am also not convinced that he did a good job of reconciling his ideas on quantum mechanics/multiverses with Platonic realism in a very satisfying manner.

    That being said, I love that he wrote this book. It's ambitious, it tries to weave a lot of complex ideas together into a coherent whole, and he manages to frequently keep things interesting even in the midst of fairly abstruse debates. The 'mathic world' he conjured up is at once deeply alien but also quite familiar to anyone who has spent time in an academic setting, and it's entertaining to imagine. I particularly enjoyed the mixture of academic inquiry with a form of religious ritual - the trappings of religion stripped of supernatural significance. It's an interesting combination that I found fascinating. And the final act with the rocket launches was very well conceived from a hard SF standpoint.

    At times Stephenson has some trouble shifting between his standard fictional narrative and the big, heavy issues he is talking about - it seems somewhat ridiculous to get a detailed description of the local geography during a road trip when two pages later the characters are hip deep in a discussion about alien WMDs or whatever. And what soured things most for me was the ending - it was deeply unsatisfying and did little to answer questions I still had. Perhaps another read through would help settle some things in my mind, but as it is I feel like we just had a 'there but for the grace of God' moment and moved on. Perhaps Stephenson has written some about this - I'll have to go have a look.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  3. #423
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    Finally got around to reading Anathem. Hmm. Part of me wants to hate this book, and part of me wants to love it. I'm not sure what to make of it. First, the bad: Stephenson decides to needlessly invent a bunch of words (albeit cleverly constructed - I found myself using praxis instead of technology today) and it makes the book a bit of heavy going. He does the same with basic philosophical debates. He takes, for example, Platonic ideals and nominalism and makes up a bunch of pointless terminology and turns it into an academic holy war. The basic idea seems to be based strongly on themes from Canticle for Leibowitz though he definitely takes things in a very different direction. I am also not convinced that he did a good job of reconciling his ideas on quantum mechanics/multiverses with Platonic realism in a very satisfying manner.

    That being said, I love that he wrote this book. It's ambitious, it tries to weave a lot of complex ideas together into a coherent whole, and he manages to frequently keep things interesting even in the midst of fairly abstruse debates. The 'mathic world' he conjured up is at once deeply alien but also quite familiar to anyone who has spent time in an academic setting, and it's entertaining to imagine. I particularly enjoyed the mixture of academic inquiry with a form of religious ritual - the trappings of religion stripped of supernatural significance. It's an interesting combination that I found fascinating. And the final act with the rocket launches was very well conceived from a hard SF standpoint.

    At times Stephenson has some trouble shifting between his standard fictional narrative and the big, heavy issues he is talking about - it seems somewhat ridiculous to get a detailed description of the local geography during a road trip when two pages later the characters are hip deep in a discussion about alien WMDs or whatever. And what soured things most for me was the ending - it was deeply unsatisfying and did little to answer questions I still had. Perhaps another read through would help settle some things in my mind, but as it is I feel like we just had a 'there but for the grace of God' moment and moved on. Perhaps Stephenson has written some about this - I'll have to go have a look.
    I got something new out of each subsequent reading but endings are definitely not Stephenson's strong suite. The Baroque Cycle probably had the strongest ending, but it took eight books to get there.
    Last edited by Enoch the Red; 07-25-2016 at 02:12 AM.

  4. #424
    Quote Originally Posted by Enoch the Red View Post
    I got something new out of each subsequent reading but endings are definitely not Stephenson's strong suite. The Baroque Cycle probably had the strongest ending, but it took eight books to get there.
    I dunno, I loved the endings in his early stuff (e.g. Snow Crash, Diamond Age, even The Big U). Anathem felt to me like he wasn't really sure how to end things and so just slapped together a chapter or two and called it 'done'. It was very promising up until they reach the icosahedron; after that it starts wandering.

    Some of his other tome-like novels also suffer from some ending issues, but I didn't feel that e.g. Cryptonomicon was as bad in this regard.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  5. #425
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    I dunno, I loved the endings in his early stuff (e.g. Snow Crash, Diamond Age, even The Big U). Anathem felt to me like he wasn't really sure how to end things and so just slapped together a chapter or two and called it 'done'. It was very promising up until they reach the icosahedron; after that it starts wandering.

    Some of his other tome-like novels also suffer from some ending issues, but I didn't feel that e.g. Cryptonomicon was as bad in this regard.
    As a rule of thumb I find that generally the weightier the subject matter, themes, and ideas that Stephenson explores the worse the ending. His smaller, zippier books like Zodiac, The Big U, and Snow Crash all had endings that I could consider satisfying, (though part of me still thinks even there that he is as loath to write the endings as I am to get to them) but Anathem, Cryptonomicon and even the Baroque Cycle - when read individually and not in volume form - all end in ways that left me wanting. Reamde did not on the whole do much for me, but it probably had one of the more traditional endings of any of his works.

    I haven't had a chance to reread Seveneves yet, but at first blush it has been the most uneven writing of his I have had the pleasure to read yet.
    Last edited by Enoch the Red; 07-25-2016 at 07:17 PM.

  6. #426
    Neal Stephenson's an odd author in the sense that there's this massive gap between the aspects of the writers craft he's good at and those he's not so good at. Where Stephenson excels is in taking real world science, philosophy and ideas and turning them into endlessly fascinating stories and SF settings. With a Stephenson story, you get that sense of awe and wonder you get from any good SF story but more so because his work is so much more grounded in real stuff, not just some shit he made up. He's also very good at conveying this ideas and making them relatable and understandable without burying you in technical jargon or requiring you to do a quick undergrad course in the subject. He writes very good prose too, most of the time.

    However, the man cannot do characterisation for toffee and seems to have a total disregard for structure. For example, the last 1/3 ofSeveneves is just straight up the prologue for another novel which may never even be written for all we know, because Neal Stephenson.

    With his earlier work, there was one factor that mitigated these two weaknesses: they were funny. Cryptonomicon in particular was absolutely hilarious in places, and fully of clever little asides and observations. The characters might have been flat, but their dialogue was good so they were enjoyable to spend time with and the rambling digressions were a pleasure. It's a shame this aspect of his work has been largely absent since the Baroque cycle, and although I enjoyed Anathem and it's YA shenanigans a lot and found a lot to admire about Seveneves I don't think his later work is nearly as good as Cryptonomicon, Snow Crash et al.
    Sing in grief, a requiem, the curse of our millennium, these souls keep whispering from the river beds
    An end to all these violent means, alive in these red water dreams, their haunted burdens stirring in my head on streets still running red
    Most went in the flood, a few were martyred by the flames, yet those who unleashed the waters are still guilty all the same
    When the ignorance of puppets serves the masters larger game, they let it rain, they let it rain
    When I get the chance to rise I'll find the light in their cold eyes or lose myself and carry out revenge
    The righteous hunt has just begun, the dimming of the bleeding sun will let these waters run clear once again



  7. #427
    Not tried Neal Stephenson, but am looking to try someone new.

    What of his would you guys recommend I start with?
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    It's actually the original French billion, which is bi-million, which is a million to the power of 2. We adopted the word, and then they changed it, presumably as revenge for Crecy and Agincourt, and then the treasonous Americans adopted the new French usage and spread it all over the world. And now we have to use it.

    And that's Why I'm Voting Leave.

  8. #428
    Snow Crash, then The Diamond Age. No question. Then come back to us and we can discuss the rest of his work - a lot of it is either a bit less polished (i.e. his early work like The Big U or Zodiac) or is very lengthy and more turgid (The Baroque Cycle, Cryptonomicon, the aforementioned Anathem). They're all good in different ways, but by far his best and most accessible novels are the two I suggest.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  9. #429
    Cryptonomicon is peak Stephenson. It retains the wit and sparkle of Snow Crash and the Diamond Age but the learning of the later novels.

    Anyone else read the two novels he wrote as Stephen Bury, with his uncle or something - Interface and Cobweb?
    Sing in grief, a requiem, the curse of our millennium, these souls keep whispering from the river beds
    An end to all these violent means, alive in these red water dreams, their haunted burdens stirring in my head on streets still running red
    Most went in the flood, a few were martyred by the flames, yet those who unleashed the waters are still guilty all the same
    When the ignorance of puppets serves the masters larger game, they let it rain, they let it rain
    When I get the chance to rise I'll find the light in their cold eyes or lose myself and carry out revenge
    The righteous hunt has just begun, the dimming of the bleeding sun will let these waters run clear once again



  10. #430
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    Cryptonomicon is peak Stephenson. It retains the wit and sparkle of Snow Crash and the Diamond Age but the learning of the later novels.
    I disagree, mostly for thematic reasons. I have a huge soft spot for cyberpunk, which Stephenson absolutely nailed in Snow Crash and (differently) in Diamond Age. Also, I think he does better when he talks about themes in the future rather than in the present - Cryptonomicon probably read as a pretty interesting novel back in '99, but its underlying themes of cryptography and data havens and the like seem a bit overhashed now - pretty much any thinking person is well versed in these topics nowadays. I feel similarly about Reamde (which, contrary to some here, I actually found to still contain some substantial humor) - writing 'present day' thrillers might be entertaining, but it means your themes can get dated very quickly - go back and try reading older Michael Crichton - it doesn't age well.

    Also, Cryptonomicon is unnecessarily long for its plot. Then again, it has probably the best Stephenson passage I've ever read - even better than the one about The Deliverator (I'm talking about the bit discussing the ideal way to eat Cap'n Crunch). Anyways, I'd give it honorary third place.

    Anyone else read the two novels he wrote as Stephen Bury, with his uncle or something - Interface and Cobweb?
    Nah. It's been on my list, but not very high up. If I ever see them on sale at the local used bookstore I'll pick them up but it's not a high priority. What did you think?



    In other news, I've also been reading the first Mistborn books. They're written better and with more ingenuity than your typical fantasy series - and certainly move plots along better - but so far they are falling on the side of 'entertaining one shots' rather than 'obsessively re-read masterpieces'. Ditto for Elantris, which also suffered from some plot holes and first-novel issues. I will give Sanderson this - he wrote a novel that I felt comfortable recommending to my wife. She has far less patience than I do for most SF/fantasy so I only recommend books to her that I know she'll enjoy. The combination of non-stupid female protagonist with a reasonable fast and entertaining pace were enough to make it to my recommendation list, and she really loved them. So kudos to him for that.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  11. #431
    Thanks chaps.

    Ordered Snow Crash and The Diamond Age
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    It's actually the original French billion, which is bi-million, which is a million to the power of 2. We adopted the word, and then they changed it, presumably as revenge for Crecy and Agincourt, and then the treasonous Americans adopted the new French usage and spread it all over the world. And now we have to use it.

    And that's Why I'm Voting Leave.

  12. #432
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    Nah. It's been on my list, but not very high up. If I ever see them on sale at the local used bookstore I'll pick them up but it's not a high priority. What did you think?
    Interface is quite good. Pretty decent take on US election politics, albeit in a rather 90s kind of way. But every now and again one of the characters will say something like "and the problem with America is that people these don't don't have Values: hard work and self-reliance", as if looking directly at the camera and delivering a Very Special Message.

    It's bizarre and jarring in a novel which has an otherwise pretty nuanced take on politics.

    I can't remember much about Cobweb, it has some espionage stuff going on I think. Maybe I should reread it.
    Sing in grief, a requiem, the curse of our millennium, these souls keep whispering from the river beds
    An end to all these violent means, alive in these red water dreams, their haunted burdens stirring in my head on streets still running red
    Most went in the flood, a few were martyred by the flames, yet those who unleashed the waters are still guilty all the same
    When the ignorance of puppets serves the masters larger game, they let it rain, they let it rain
    When I get the chance to rise I'll find the light in their cold eyes or lose myself and carry out revenge
    The righteous hunt has just begun, the dimming of the bleeding sun will let these waters run clear once again



  13. #433
    So, has anyone read Max Gladstone's Craft novels? They mentioned it on Monkey Cage and the series seems fun and original:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...d-in-politics/
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  14. #434
    I just finished reading China Mieville's Iron Council, his last Bas-Lag novel to date. Hmm.

    Look, I love the steampunk(ish)/New Weird/whatever genre. I think it's fresh and interesting and twists conventions (especially in fantasy) on their heads. And I have generally enjoyed the quality of Mieville's prose - I though Perdido Street Station was a real breakout novel. Yet the more I read - The Scar, Iron Council, some of his other fiction - the more I get bored. I'm not bored because his stories are poorly told or based on a poor premise - for heaven's sake, Iron Council was about taking a Western to the nth degree and throwing in magic. I'm bored because Mieville can't resist telling a deeply political story as central to his motivation. I get that he's a Marxist, and I fully expect that to bleed through into his books. But there's only so much I can take of long sections detailing the politics between different leftist factions, or the caricature of awful depredations by governments and plutocrats that lead to popular insurrections. Even the self-critique he includes in his books is a little too inward-looking to be of value.

    There are other deeply leftist authors who I enjoy - Steven Brust comes to mind in particular. He is a self-proclaimed Trotskyist (I think? Don't quote me on this; I vaguely recall his answer to this question being much more nuanced that I can reproduce) and you can see it in some of his novels. But the politics takes a back seat to storytelling, and Brust isn't shy about writing contrasting views - the sympathetic portrayal of many agents of the Dragaeran Empire, Vlad Taltos' ambivalence towards his wife's political activism, his open acknowledgement that the world is sometimes far more complex than can be summed up simply by a theoretical ideology. His political discussions are plot devices, not ends in themselves.

    I can't say I won't read more Mieville; he is indeed an excellent writer. But my patience is waning.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  15. #435
    Just finished the Silo Trilogy by Hugh Howey. I had heard good things about Wool, so I read it and thought it was all right; I saw Shift and Dust for cheap at a bookstore recently and finished off the series.

    I thought the whole series was okay. It clearly starts off as an early work by the author, but the characters and setting are engaging enough. Even in the third book, Howey develops a bunch of plot lines just to needlessly end a bunch of them without resolution. I understand that 'just so' endings are also annoying, but sometimes it seems like he doesn't know what to do with certain characters or developments, so he just cuts them off through one device or another. Sometimes the bad guys are just comically bad while the good guys are always great (even when some of the good guys are clearly stupid and responsible - directly or indirectly - for heinous results). Howey tries to convey moral complexity but it just comes off as whiny to me without really addressing the moral quandry head-on.

    What really bothers me, though, is the technical details. I tried hard to suspend my disbelief, but he gives more and more details of how his world works in the second and third books, and there are just fundamental problems that my engineer's brain couldn't ignore. I realize that Howey added most of the details (especially in the third book) to address some of these concerns, but he was clearly making things up along the way, and the inconsistencies start to strain credulity. I don't want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say he posits a closed system existing based on more-or-less familiar technology for centuries. Recycling and stockpiling addresses a lot of the problems, but I think by far the biggest real issue has to do with oil, used for both power and raw materials; there's no way there would be enough to provide for the needs of 50 silos for this period of time, not to mention the 'mines' that supposedly provide for some raw materials. The other issue has to do with the nanotechnology and the defenses/uses of it; I can't give more details without giving away lots of spoilers, but suffice to say I was unimpressed with his treatment of the subject.

    I love post-apocalyptic fiction, and I love ship-in-a-bottle kind of stories, so I was predisposed to enjoy this. I had fun, yes, but wouldn't say it blew me away. Decent light reading if you're not feeling to picky.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  16. #436
    Recently finished up some old books on my list:
    Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. Won a Pulitzer and has been on my pile since I read a glowing review in the Economist. Solidly written story with a bit of a coming of age feel to it. Parts of the middle were hard to read - I absolutely can't stand reading about people making excruciatingly poor life choices, especially the descent into substance abuse. But she manages to pull out a really good narrative with some beautifully realized characters. It's obviously a flight of fancy with far too many 'just so' occurrences to be believable, but that's forgivable for the richness of the story.

    The thing that was a bit of a turn-off was the soliloquy at the end - she portrays a deeply nihilistic worldview that, while somehow still hopeful, is anathema and alien to me. I'm not sure it really qualifies as nihilist - it's even veering a bit into existentialist territory - but I tend to view my life and the world through a lens of purpose, which was very much at odds with her message. I think I was supposed to find it a bit uplifting, but instead I just found it sad... I can appreciate the world of 'things' that she explores, but at the end of the day I'm really only concerned with people.

    Benjamin Black's Christine Falls. This was a recommendation from a colleague of mine - written by the genre fiction pseudonym of John Banville. The book is, vaguely, a crime novel. But it's wildly different from any crime novel I've read. There's little suspense or mystery - the basic outline of the crime and its perpetrators are revealed early on. The book follows a shambling wreck of a man who blunders into the midst of this conspiracy, but it's far from plot-driven.

    What really set this book apart was the sheer beauty of the language. Black/Banville uses imagery that's incredibly vivid, with unexpected metaphors for the most banal of settings. It's hard to describe without reading some excerpts, but I definitely appreciated it. Apparently this is the first of a series of books following the main character - I might pick up some more, but I'm more interested in seeing more of Banville's prose in a non-genre setting. Worth a read.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  17. #437
    Has anyone read The Three-Body Problem?



    Chinese sci-fi translated to English. Winner of the Hugo award.
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    It's actually the original French billion, which is bi-million, which is a million to the power of 2. We adopted the word, and then they changed it, presumably as revenge for Crecy and Agincourt, and then the treasonous Americans adopted the new French usage and spread it all over the world. And now we have to use it.

    And that's Why I'm Voting Leave.

  18. #438
    I've read the Three Body Problem. It was good.

    The squeal... less so.
    Sing in grief, a requiem, the curse of our millennium, these souls keep whispering from the river beds
    An end to all these violent means, alive in these red water dreams, their haunted burdens stirring in my head on streets still running red
    Most went in the flood, a few were martyred by the flames, yet those who unleashed the waters are still guilty all the same
    When the ignorance of puppets serves the masters larger game, they let it rain, they let it rain
    When I get the chance to rise I'll find the light in their cold eyes or lose myself and carry out revenge
    The righteous hunt has just begun, the dimming of the bleeding sun will let these waters run clear once again



  19. #439
    This Vicious Cabaret Unheard Of's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    434
    ...and the third one is worse.
    Greetings, citizen! THE COMPUTER has made you a protector of the underground city of ALPHA COMPLEX. You will have lots of fun rooting out Communist mutant traitors. The Computer says so.

  20. #440
    Hum. Well will try the first at least.
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    It's actually the original French billion, which is bi-million, which is a million to the power of 2. We adopted the word, and then they changed it, presumably as revenge for Crecy and Agincourt, and then the treasonous Americans adopted the new French usage and spread it all over the world. And now we have to use it.

    And that's Why I'm Voting Leave.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •