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So... what are you reading right now?


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"At Home: A short history of Private Life" by Bill Bryson. Bryson does a good job at condensing complicated subjects down to more understandable levels.
Indeed, excellent book. Well humored and witty. I helped on the official translation to portuguese so I had to read it several times. :thmbup1:


Also, "The Count of Monte Cristo." I just got the Amazon Kindle app, there are a ton of free books, mostly classics. It is quite possibly the greatest thing ever.
And here is where you win again, pal. I need to pick another Dumas to read but Monte Cristo will be quite the investment, considering the size. :lol:


One funny thing is that I'm finishing "Le Rouge et le Noir", by Stendhal, and in one of his own notes he criticizes Dumas work as being "frivolous".

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"At Home: A short history of Private Life" by Bill Bryson.
I read that book. Was pretty good, but didn't seem as great as his previous efforts, to me anyway. My favorite book of his is 'A short history of nearly everything' which I found to be utterly fantastic.
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Just finished Runes of the Earth, the first book of the final chronicles of Thomas Covenant, by Stephen R. Donaldson. This is my new favorite fantasy series. Donaldson really challenges his readers more than the average fantasy author. His lead character commits a really despicable act in the early stages of book one, and you still care about him. There is so much room for discussion about what certain things mean in the books, that it will be great for multiple readings. Check out the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson.

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Ah someone reading a book that I would enjoy!


Well what I'm reading is not a book per se. Rather it a series of old essays as well as texts relating to the topics to consider for my comp exams. Man they are just around the corner. However it is a good opportunity to see how much I actually remember of face negotiation theory according to Littlejohn and Foss.

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Just finished The End of Mr. Y, by Scarlett Thomas, and...


Sigh. This is the problem with books like this. They entice you in with promises of Chestertonian surrealism and gothic adventuring, and you get... tawdry and humdrum sex scenes and banal characters boring each others' ears off for pages on end about Baudrillard and Derrida. No, really: the book is full of passages like:


I search my shelves for the book. Eventually I find it, and it tells me what I remember reading. In the furnace of the Big Bng, hydrogen was the first element to form from the hot plasmic soup of electrons and protons. It's a bit of a no-brainer: all you need for hydrogen is one electron and one proton. The mass of this hydrogen isotope is one - because it has one proton (electrons don't reall have any mass). In the incredible heat, hydrogen isotopes with masses two (deuterium - one proton and one neutron) and three (tritium and trialphium) also formed. Then helium, with mass four. But there is no stable atom with mass five. Because there is no atom with mass five, no one understood how carbon could ever habe been made. Each new element is made from fusing the elements that ame before it, but you can whi hydrogen and helium around in a cosmic blender for as long as you want and you won't make carbon.


That is a problem because...


And so on, and so on, and so on, for pages. The thing is, this is meant to be a novel. If I wanted to have a science textbook regurgitated at me, I'd take evening classes. It just fills up pages and attempts to make the author lookk clever. Except, of course, it's unbelievably boring. And as I say, other bits spend page after page wittering about Baudrillard and Heidegger until you want to throttle the authoress.


This isn't helped by a protagonist who must be the most artifically 'tragic' character ever invented. She's PhD student on the brink of starvation who engages in dirty sex to alleviate something-or-other and as a slightly less harmful version of cutting herself (aw, bless - are ya getting weepy yet?). The character, of course, never shuts up about any of this, either, and the sheer clumsiness of the authorial artifice is almost more nauseating than the execrable prose itself.


And every character has the same "issues", cookie-cutter design to them. Every one. It doesn't help that everything is filtered through the knowing, weary eyes of the protagonist. Partly, this is because of when it was written, in 2006, when it seems 'meaningful issues' were still things to discuss, and everyone wasn't yet sick to death of abortion threads.


The overall result is you get a glorified and rather **** thought experiment shoved down your throat, surrounded by some abysmal writing. If the book had managed to match its high-falutin' scientific pretensions with less padding and a structure closer to that of the more successful postmodernists - the plot of Foucault's Pendulum, say - it might have been something to write home about. But I doubt Foucault's Pendulum sold 150,000 copies.


This book serves as a stark warning against teachers of creative writing. Because of Scarlett Thomas is anything to by, they're people who shouldn't be writing in the first place, let alone their pupils.



I also just finished Newtons Sleep by Daniel O'Mahony.


Now, here the contrast is interesting between the diabolically awful but successful 'mainstream' novel and the really, really good obscure 'genre' work.


Newtons Sleep is part of the Faction Paradox universe, of which I have probably bored people enough already in this thread to repeat things again. What marks this book out from the likes of, say, Warlords of Utopia, is that it's a bit less of a Boy's Own adventure tale. NS takes as its premise the adage "as above, so below", and then applies it to English history between, roughly, the late reign of James I (reigned 1603-1625), and the reign of Charles II (r. 1630-1685), and the construction of the New St Paul's Cathedral (begun in 1677 and completed in the 1720s) and the building of six churches in London by Nicholas Hawksmoor.


The period was one of massive social and political change: from the execution of Charles I, the erection of the Commonwealth of England, the Restoration of Charles II, the brief reign of James II and the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 which booted him out, there was a period of only 63 years. In the same period, major theological, scientific, philosophical and literary figures rise and fall, like Newton, Winstanley, Milton, Behn, Wren, Hawksmoor, Hobbes, Dryden, and so on.


And the premise of Newtons Sleep is that War in Heaven (in this case, between the Great Houses and their Enemy) is intimately connected with the goings-on of this period, directly as well as indirectly.


O'Mahony handles this brilliantly, managing to weave fact and fiction, the surreal super-science fiction and the expectations and prejudices of the 17th Century beautifully. The result is a tome of a book, which takes a long time to plough through (not least because the structure of the prose has a distinct and unhurried style to it), but which rewards persistence.


This is by no means an easy read, but it is a rewarding one, and one more than worth pursuing. By parts beautiful, fascinating, horrifying, revolting and amusing, it's a great piece of writing. Following two major characters and a host of minor ones, including the very much real Aphra Behn, the book as much examines 17th century ideas of magic, science, the order of the universe and its very direct relationship with the physical world as it does grandiose four-dimensional war. Anyone looking for fancy spaceship battles should look elsewhere, because this is something very different and far, far more fascinating.


I only have two complaints about the book. One, I found the sex scenes unnecessary, and thought they detracted from an otherwise superb book by dragging it to the level of titillation in those scenes. Two, I rather wish the author hadn't chosen Aphra Behn. Not because he mishandles the character - on the contrary, I thought her characterisation was lively and compelling - but simply because she's a character about whom there has been so much... fuss, that I think a less well-known person might have been more interesting.


The only other thing is that some readers may find the points where the book connects with its wider mythos a little vague on details and find it difficult as a consequence to work out what is going on in these scenes. I have to confess, once I finished the book I turned back to The Book of the War to look up a couple of relevant passages and remind myself of what's going on, but I don't think not knowing about this will render these parts of the book incomprehensible. Overall a very, very impressive novel that is well, well worth reading.

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Just finished reading this and it's really, really good. It's a collection of short stories based on the premise that there is a machine, when provided with a blood sample, is able to tell you how you will die. The original concept comes from this episode of Dinosaur Comics by Ryan North (which is a fantastic read, by the by). The stories are from some pretty well known webcomic authors as well as some fresh new faces. For the most part, they do extremely well as many of the stories are well done. Quite a few of my favorite stories are from authors I'd never heard of before. There are a few duds, but on the whole, it's a great collection of work based around a rather unique and oddly compelling idea. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good, thought-provoking read.


For those interested in learning more, here are some handy links:


The Machine of Death Website - explains the concept in further detail

Wiki link - with an amusing story of how political blowhard and professional troll Glenn Beck threw a hissy fit when MOD beat his book on the bestseller list.

Link to ebook download - for those who would like to read it, but are poor, the editors are total rock stars and have made it freely available in pdf form for your reading pleasure.

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Finally started reading I, Lucifer. I'm halfway through and it's been an entertaining read so far. Glen Duncan portrays Lucifer as a funny and rather mischievous than really evil character, from Lucifer's own POV. I do have some issues with Lucifer's digressions (even if they are funny) and his recounting of biblical events from his POV, which for me detract from what's supposed to be the main storyline in this book (but which hasn't had any time to shine so far): Lucifer and his experience on earth, in the body of a suicidal writer. But Lucifer's character is so entertaining you just keep reading.

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The Truce - Primo Levi


A true story of an Italian jew, ex-prisoner of a German concentration camp, trying to - first of all survive and just then - get home on a Europe that is a complete mess. The USSR occupies a good chunk of Central Europe and claims for itself the duty of reallocating the Nazi victims of a myriad of different places and languages.

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Crowded Rooms by Prem Nath


An anthology of great short stories in the magic realist vein about urban living (specifically, living in Mumbai). Some really great material in there for indie horror movies. :D The book only seems to be released in India at the moment, but I liked every story in it.

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Currently reading The Secret History by Procopius of Caesarea. It's like most Roman histories. But bitchier.


I just read about some library banning Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, so I figured this would be as good a time as any to read it.


I found it a bit disappointing, myself. Certainly not all it's cracked up to be.

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I'm in the middle of reading a whole bunch of things, actually.


Arion - Lord of Atlantis

This was a 42-issue comic book run in the 80s, published by DC Comics. It was sword-and-sorcery, but wasn't totally typical of the genre. Technology existed side by side with magic, and the first issue is in space! I lurve magic and fantasy in space!


JLA Classified

Yes, another comic book series, a 54-issue run starting in the mid 2000s. It's a bunch of untold adventures of the superhero team Justice League of America. Well illustrated and (for the most part) well told, I probably enjoy it more than most because I'm a big JLA fan.


Percy Jackson and the Olympians

A five book series that was recommended to me by a close friend. Written for young adults, but people of all ages can get into it. Much like Harry Potter, except with Greek mythology rather than witchcraft and wizardry. Yes, that's a simplistic comparison that doesn't take into account all the nuances, but it's a nutshell explanation. I'm VERY much enjoying this, and am on the fourth book now.


Star Wars: The New Jedi Order

A 19-book series set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, taking place approximately 20-25 years after Return of the Jedi. I never could finish the whole thing when it came out, and I'm having trouble getting through it now. Even though I'm a HUGE Star Wars fan, this particular series doesn't seem particularly StarWarsy, with the Yuuzhan Vong and such. I mean, I understand you can do the Empire and Sith only so much, but still! But by God, I will finish it, however slowly and torturously I must do it.


Consider Phlebas by Iain Banks

A sci-fi novel, first in the "Culture" series. I got it after I read about what the titular Culture was supposed to be, a super-advanced post-scarcity society where everyone can get what they want super-easy, and their top agents carry a planet-killer in their pocket. Upon actually reading it, I've been a little disappointed, as (a) there is another culture of supremely advanced aliens even more advanced than the Culture, which kind of spoils the effect, and (b) the story isn't told from within the Culture. :(


War of the Twins by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

Second book in the Dragonlance Legends trilogy. An awesome fantasy series in an awesome fantasy setting. Raistlin Majere rocks! He is one of the most bad-a** characters I've seen in a book, yet he's physically puny and ill. Amazing.

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