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EMT 14 April 2024 | Main | Watermelons vs. Traditional Progressives: Internecine Warfare At The NY Times!
April 14, 2024

Sunday Morning Book Thread - 04-14-2024 ["Perfessor" Squirrel]


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(HT: Sgt. Mom - Click for larger image!)

Welcome to the prestigious, internationally acclaimed, stately, and illustrious Sunday Morning Book Thread! The place where all readers are welcome, regardless of whatever guilty pleasure we feel like reading (April is National Poetry Month). Here is where we can discuss, argue, bicker, quibble, consider, debate, confabulate, converse, and jaw about our latest fancy in reading material. As always, pants are required, unless you are wearing these pants...

So relax, find yourself a warm kitty (or warm puppy--I won't judge) to curl up in your lap, finish up those tax returns, and dive into a new book. What are YOU reading this fine morning?


PIC NOTE

Moron Author Sgt. Mom sent me this pic with the accompanying description:

Hi, Perfessor - I just finished this little kit of a bookstore, and thought that you might like to have a picture of the finished project for the book thread, in case you were reaching the dregs of your archives of libraries and bookstores. It's a kit from Rolife, which I got as an Amazon Vine reviewer - a new release, it seems. It was the most fun, putting it all together, although getting the interior light to work was a bit of a pain. I love the book thread, BTW, although I don't always comment, as real life does interfere sometimes.

This is a really neat kit! It's so detailed and interesting to look at. I can only imagine the level of care that went into designing it and then building it. Incredible!

BOOKS I COULD NOT FINISH

Science fiction author John C. Wright posted an article on his blog recently about books that he could not finish. His only criteria is that the books had to be something he thought he'd really, really like but he just could not finish them.

Here are a few of my own that I just could not finish, even though I thought they sounded good. My general rule is I try to read through at least 20% of a book before I give up on it completely. If the first 20% is able to keep my interest, then it's likely I'll at least finish the book, even if the ending is less than satisfactory.

  • Elantris by Brandon Sanderson -- I've enjoyed Sanderson ever since I read his conclusion to The Wheel of Time series. I then went and read the Mistborn trilogy and greatly enjoyed it. So I decided to read Elantris, Sanderson's first published novel. I didn't like it at all. I really didn't understand how the magic system was supposed to work and I didn't like the setting the main character was thrust into at the beginning of the story. It was just too depressing and awful, which I know was the point, but it made it very hard to really follow along with the character. I may read it again sometime in the future, but maybe not. Plenty of better Sanderson books out there...
  • Gormenghats by Mervyn Peake -- This is often lauded as a great series, though most people agree that the third novel, Titus Alone is a major letdown. The premise sounds intriguing as it features a young boy growing up to become the heir of a very strange household ruled by the major domo who was once a kitchen boy but now is a tyrant over the household staff. Lots of strange rituals whose meaning has been lost in time. Very gothic atmosphere. However, like John C. Wright, I found the writing very difficult to endure and I didn't want to spend a lot of time trying to unpack the stilted, elaborate language. I like a lot more fluidity to my storytelling. Gormenghast is not a page-turner for me, but is a slog.
  • The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White -- The premise of the book sounds fairly interesting: A secret society of immortal beings that have ruled the world for untold aeons behind the scenes. Unfortunately, the execution leaves much to be desired. Brust and White keep switching between characters' points of view and each character's story is told from first-person point of view. It's almost entirely dialogue, which I don't care much for, preferring to have at least *some* prose exposition to describe locations and actions. So this story which sounded neat at the time just didn't click with me at all. Fortunately, I didn't pay full price for this, as I found it at a library book sale.
  • Farseer Trilogy Book 1 - Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb -- This is one of those books that is often featured highly on lists of best fantasy. I do like stories about assassins who have a bit of an anti-hero edge to them, but also do good things sometimes (e.g., Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks). However, the first several chapters just didn't grip me. The world-building seemed very bland and uninteresting compared to other origin stories, so I just don't know if I will be able to stick with it until the main character comes into his full range of skills and abilities. I was too bored to continue with it. Even the world map was boring. Maybe I'll try again in the future. I dunno....

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BOOKS I HAD TO FINISH

On the flip side of the coin, John C. Wright also posted a list of books that he was compelled to finish. Here, the criteria was a bit more restrictive: books that he loved despite their obvious flaws. Mr. Wright and I do not have any convergence on this particular list--not of the books he listed, anyway. In fact, one of my books on the list would be on his list that he could not finish. Some of these are books in a series, but I felt compelled to read the entire series from start to finish because I was just that engaged with the characters. That does not mean they are great literature...just books that I thoroughly enjoyed and wanted to keep reading.

  • Wheel of Time Book 2 - The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan -- This one sticks in my brain because of when I read it and how I read it. I was a senior in high school for my first readthrough and I had just picked it up from the local American bookstore on the military base (I lived in Germany at the time). I started reading it after getting home around noon. I stopped reading it about 8 hours later when it was done. Over 600 pages straight through. The only break I took was about 30 minutes in order to write an essay for English class (that was not related to Wheel of Time, alas...). Almost every time I do a readthrough of The Great Hunt, I will breeze through it in a day or two because I just enjoy it that much.
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson -- At the time it came out, this was just an incredible cyberpunk story about a crazy world where people lived in crappy storage units in the real world, but could be a warrior prince in cyberspace. It's a fun, entertaining ride and I could not put this book down once I started reading it. The present tense story-telling technique was unusual for its time and refreshing. The premise was also weird, as it features a "mind virus" that allows brains to be hacked remotely (or destroyed). Now, I look back and see how hilariously dated it is, but it's still an enjoyable read.
  • Agent Pendergast Series by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child -- I have one of YOU to thank for getting me hooked on these books. Thanks to a library book sale, I picked up a few of these for just a couple bucks each. I started with Still Life with Crows and then devoured the rest of them over the course of Summer 2023. Now I'm eagerly awaiting the next book in the series which should be out later this year. I find Agent Pendergast to be one of the most original characters I've ever read. He's complex, deeply wounded on a spiritual level, but nevertheless is still a good man underneath all that.
  • The Repairman Jack Series by F. Paul Wilson -- Like Agent Pendergast, Repairman Jack is a man who plays by his own rules and refuses to conform to society's expectations. He lives outside the law like a stainless steel rat, only taking those jobs which no one else can do. He is also the Chosen One for a cosmic entity that doesn't care about humanity, but doesn't want its ancient Adversary to gain a foothold in this universe. It sucks to be Jack some days when a perfectly ordinary job takes a bizarre twist into unreality. Jack would fit in quite well at a MOME in many ways, as he doesn't trust governmental authority and prefers to live his own life as he sees fit. Like Agent Pendergast, he's a complex man who carries deep scars, but underneath he's a very honorable and courageous man that stands up for what is right in this world. On his off time, he likes to pose as a hapless tourist in NYC and mug the muggers who try to rob him. He donates his loot to a local charity that sponsors baseball leagues for underprivileged children. Also like the Agent Pendergast series, once I started reading them I couldn't stop.
  • Dresden Files by Jim Butcher -- Hmmm. I think I sense a theme here. Like Agent Pendergast and Repairman Jack, Harry Dresden is a complicated man who often finds himself in situations where he is severely overmatched (at first). Through grit, determination, and judicious application of fire/cold/force magic, he finds a way to be the hero. Though he does have a hard edge to him if you push him to far, as his enemies found out in Changes when he killed his lover in order to destroy an entire strain of vampires and save his baby girl. DO NOT MEDDLE WITH HARRY'S DAUGHTER! He's very quick to anger and not all that subtle in his retaliation. Again, once I got going in the series, I just couldn't stop, blazing through them one at a time.

NONE of the books listed above would classify as "great" literature in the traditional sense. However, they all gripped my imagination and inspired me in ways that I still don't quite understand. Each of them involves an otherwise ordinary person being called upon to do great things, sometimes against his will. But all of the heroes in the stories above are at their core "good" men in the traditional sense of the word. Some (e.g., Rand al-Thor, Repairman Jack) go on to become truly great men at the end of their story. Others (Harry Dresden, Agent Pendergast) are still in development as their stories have not yet ended. I eagerly wait for the conclusion and will devour those books in turn.

BOOKS BY FRIENDS OF MORONS

fearful-breakers.jpg Good Thursday morning Perfessor,

Hope things are going well for you in the book world. I have a friend from Church who just published a book (historical fiction) and I was hoping you would favor her with a post of it. The summary is below, and I'm attaching an image of the book cover. I think the horde might just like it.

Thanks for even considering posting it, Grateful
+++++

Fearful Breakers by Janice Sebring

In 1760 Cuba, José Albañez, a free boy of color, resents his charming but unprincipled uncle Domingo's pressure to join him to sea in his smuggling ventures. He would rather follow his father into the joiner's trade. Instead, he finds himself struggling to master seamanship, lodging with a Jewish trading family on Jamaica in the aftermath of a slave revolt, and confronting kidnappers on Saint-Domingue. The arrival of a British fleet off of Cuba in 1762 forces him to decide where his future lies. A coming of age story, the novel portrays a world in which faith mattered to many, society valued responsibility over self-fulfillment, and violence was commonplace. It also details the complex racial world of the 18th century Caribbean, in which a person of color might be a brutalized slave, a tradesman, a policeman, or a landowner with slaves himself.

MORON RECOMMENDATIONS

Yay book thread! Last week I finished Hillaire Belloc's The Great Heresies.

It is a quick read, makes solid points, and shows a remarkable prescience about where society was headed in the 1930s.

His take on the Reformation is very interesting, essentially arguing that the same freedom to reshape the faith ultimately is the engine of its destruction. He clearly saw that all of the Reformed (state) churches in Europe would die out, and so they have, and most are now property management firms with a side-hustle of selling souvenirs on the side.

The final heresy on his list is "modernism" (he admits this is a placeholder name) and he absolutely predicts its core nihilism and drive to annihilate the Church and put man in God's place.

His big theme is that heresies keep popping up, and are often recycled in the micro scale. I think Wokeness is consistent with the Albigensian heresy, and I've read some essays to that effect.

Posted by: Ace-Endorsed Author A.H. Lloyd at April 07, 2024 09:17 AM (llXky)

Comment: The simple definition of "heresy" is that it's a belief or opinion that is contrary to popular, mainstream, or orthodox views. I don't want to start a religious war this morning, so let's not go into the various heresies that apply to Christianity. However, "modernism" as a heresy that explicitly rejects even the *possibility* of the supernatural is something that could be discussed. To me, it seems that nihilism at its core is self-destructive. And we see that today with the behaviors and attitudes that lead to an increase of despair and hopelessness. A coroner buddy of mine said that he's seen a sharp increase in suicides recently. That does not bode well for society.

+++++

I've been reading Broken Money, by Lyn Alden. Is money a store of value or something that facilitates trade or both? Why has gold been a unique standard for money? Can governments ever resist the temptation not to print/inflate instead of prudently managing spending and taxes?

Banking allowed for transactions (commerce) and settlements (money) to be separated. How does technology impact the speed of transactions and how quickly settlements/claims are resolved?

The book takes a step back to think about why monetary systems (and related political systems) work like they do and how they got that way. It also helps to show where cracks form. Not done yet, but the book is working toward explaining why many find digital assets to be a compelling concept (digital assets that operate independent of a country or central bank). Whether you agree or disagree with the concept, it is good to understand the background.

Posted by: TRex at April 07, 2024 09:42 AM (IQ6Gq)

Comment: I have to admit I am not at all a financial guru in any sense of the word. I can live within my means and have a couple of investments here and there, but I do not pretend to understand high finance in any meaningful way. I leave that to the professionals. However, it's undeniable that we, as a species, rely on some medium of trade for our commercial relationships with each other. Barter ain't gonna cut it once you get past a certain point of trade. The fallback default medium always seems to be precious metals (gold and silver). Though one science fiction book I read (Illegal Aliens by Nick Pollota and Phil Foglio) had a galactic currency based on thulium. Not sure if that would work in real life.

+++++

When Languages Die by K. David Harrison. Information dense - you might find it more interesting as a thumb through for examples of how strange and wonderful human languages are. There are languages that have the equivalent of "tomorrow" and yesterday" going out 6 days before and after today, but don't have the concept of a week. There are completely different counting, location and object description systems. It made me think more about the oddities of English.

Posted by: Jade Sea at April 07, 2024 10:33 AM (J0Haf)

Comment: Languages are always evolving and changing. However, the rise of mass communication has led to much greater standardization and transmission of languages--especially English and a few others that are default lingua franca used around the world. It will be interesting to see how many languages go extinct in the next few decades. Will we achieve a true universal language for all mankind? Will it be English? Chinese? Or some weird mixture of both? In know in the Firefly universe the dominant languages of humans fleeing Earth-That-Was were English and Chinese, which is why the characters in the show occasionally speak Chinese phrases (badly, from what I've read). Or will our languages devolve as civilization devolves?

More Moron-recommended reading material can be found HERE! (1000+ Moron-recommended books!)

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WHAT I'VE BEEN READING THIS PAST WEEK:

After reviewing some of OregonMuse's old Book Threads, I thought I'd try something a bit different. Instead of just listing WHAT I'm reading, I'll include commentary as well. Unless otherwise specified, you can interpret this as an implied recommendation, though as always your mileage may vary.


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The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons

This is the conclusion of Dan Simmons' epic space opera The Hyperion Cantos. Raul Endymion and Aenea must save humanity from itself so that it can grow again, joining the rest of the advanced civilizations in the universe that have ascended to a higher state of being in union with the true Ultimate Intellgence (i.e., God). Or something to that effect. It's actually a bit hard to follow exactly what's going on. We do get to see some epic battles when the Shrike faces opponents that can finally pose a challenge. Of course, the Shrike--being outside of time and space to some extent--does curb stomp one or two of them just to remind them that it's really the boss. Very good conclusion to the series that wraps up most of the loose ends and explains the origins, history, and diabolical plans of the human-created artificial intelligences that were operating behind the scenes this entire time. Highly recommended if you enjoy epic space opera.


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The Sunlit Man by Brandon Sanderson

This is the final novel in Sanderson's first Kickstarter project (I hear he's starting another). Of all of the four Secret Projects, this one seems most closely tied to the Cosmere as a whole. The main protagonist, Nomad, wanders the Cosmere fleeing the mysterious Night Brigade who are after him for some unspecified crime he's committed. Now he finds himself embroiled in a war that doesn't directly involve him, but he'll need the help of one faction in order to gain enough Investiture that will power him up and allow him to flee once again. It's a pretty conventional action adventure story, but it also involves Sanderson's trademark weird worldbuilding. The planet burns itself up once every rotation, so the humans have to flee ahead of the coming dawn, staying in eternal twilight. It reminds me of the planet Crematoria from The Chronicles of Riddick.


dawnshard.jpg

Dawnshard by Brandon Sanderson

This novella takes place on the same world as Sanderson's Stormlight Archive (Roshar) and is an interquel between Oathbringer and Rhythm of War, featuring a few side characters from Stormlight. We get to explore of the areas of Roshar that is not really mentioned much in the main narrative. I think it's just a way to flesh out the world of Roshar a bit and give some depth to ancillary characters.


A01-nine-princes-amber.jpg

Chronicles of Amber Book 1 - Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

Before A Song of Ice and Fire there was Roger Zelazny's magnum opus, The Chronicle of Amber, where nine princes (and some princesses) vie for the Throne of Amber, the one true world. Corwin wakes up in a hospital with no memory of who he is, why he was targeted for assassination, or what the stakes are in the struggle that will take him to the farthest ends of the Shadow realms in a life-and-death struggle both with and against his own family. Can Corwin claim the ultimate Prize?

WHAT I'VE ACQUIRED THIS PAST WEEK:

  • The Seventh Sword Book 1 - The Reluctant Swordsman by Dave Duncan -- A chemical engineer is transported to an alternate world where he's the greatest swordsman who has ever lived. I have all of them on Kindle, but saw an opportunity to grab the first book in paperback, as I have the other two in paperback as well.
  • The Artifact by W. Michael Gear -- Humans send out an expedition to explore an alien artifact that may be our salvation or our doom. I'm a bit of a sucker when it comes to this type of story. I just like first contact with weird alien civilizations.

PREVIOUS SUNDAY MORNING BOOK THREAD - 04-07-24 (NOTE: Do NOT comment on old threads!)

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Disclaimer: No Morons were harmed in the making of this Sunday Morning Book Thread. Quatloos are the currency of the future--stock up now!

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