[Book] Thread Soon Will Be Making Another Run

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  • EchoEcho Moderator mod
    Recursion, by Blake Crouch. Ever had that daydream where you imagine travelling back in time into your younger self, with your current memories? Yeah, that's the central conceit of this novel. Things get freaky pretty fast, because it turns out that when you catch up to the point where you diverged the timeline, the whole world suddenly remembers both timelines.

    It's set in 2018 (...and various years before that, obviously), and there are plenty of references to smartphones, Facebook, etc. That dates the book, and for me that somehow made it feel dated, because who knows how well that would be holding up years from now? Feels like something more experienced authors (...or their editors) avoid doing for just that reason.

    Echo wrote: »
    Let they who have not posted about their balls in the wrong thread cast the first stone.
  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    Echo wrote: »
    Recursion, by Blake Crouch. Ever had that daydream where you imagine travelling back in time into your younger self, with your current memories? Yeah, that's the central conceit of this novel. Things get freaky pretty fast, because it turns out that when you catch up to the point where you diverged the timeline, the whole world suddenly remembers both timelines.

    It's set in 2018 (...and various years before that, obviously), and there are plenty of references to smartphones, Facebook, etc. That dates the book, and for me that somehow made it feel dated, because who knows how well that would be holding up years from now? Feels like something more experienced authors (...or their editors) avoid doing for just that reason.

    On the one hand, yeah, Facebook and iphones will date work but on the other hand if you're writing about modern characters in a Western nation leaving social media and smartphones out of it seems like it would also be conspicuous. And efforts to replace brand names with made-up equivalents to try to weather the tides of time always seem a bit silly to me. When someone keeps going to MyBook or similar I feel like it sticks out more to me than just saying "Myspace" would have. Sure, it's dated, but I notice that once, think, "The early 2000's were a different time" and move on.

    Has Crouch's writing improved over time? I tried reading Pines because I was hoping it might be better than the TV show based on it and the writing was so bad I gave up about 25% of the way through, and I don't generally give up on books once I start them. The synopses for his newer books sound interesting but that first impression was pretty dire.

    PSN,Steam,Live | CptHamiltonian
  • EchoEcho Moderator mod
    Has Crouch's writing improved over time? I tried reading Pines because I was hoping it might be better than the TV show based on it and the writing was so bad I gave up about 25% of the way through, and I don't generally give up on books once I start them. The synopses for his newer books sound interesting but that first impression was pretty dire.

    It wasn't bad, but I definitely felt things were a bit off and could have used more editing.

    Echo wrote: »
    Let they who have not posted about their balls in the wrong thread cast the first stone.
  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    Speaking of things that are bad... I've been listening to The Three-Body Problem. After the first 25% I thought, "Well, this isn't very good but maybe I'm being swayed by the nature of translated Chinese prose" but the further it got the worse it was. The ending, which I was given to understand was the best part, is next to gibberish. The science is so fucking bad. Like I get that it's science fiction but it's "I sort of skimmed some physics wikipedia articles for buzzwords" levels bad physics. The characters are barely there and almost uniformly unbelievable. The plot wavers between "meh" and nonsense. Usually when I don't enjoy a book that's won a bunch of awards I can at least see why other people would have thought highly of it despite it not being my jam. I have no idea why anyone would give this thing an award.

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  • Solomaxwell6Solomaxwell6 Registered User regular
    Speaking of things that are bad... I've been listening to The Three-Body Problem. After the first 25% I thought, "Well, this isn't very good but maybe I'm being swayed by the nature of translated Chinese prose" but the further it got the worse it was. The ending, which I was given to understand was the best part, is next to gibberish. The science is so fucking bad. Like I get that it's science fiction but it's "I sort of skimmed some physics wikipedia articles for buzzwords" levels bad physics. The characters are barely there and almost uniformly unbelievable. The plot wavers between "meh" and nonsense. Usually when I don't enjoy a book that's won a bunch of awards I can at least see why other people would have thought highly of it despite it not being my jam. I have no idea why anyone would give this thing an award.

    I think Liu Cixin tends to be good at broad concepts and fails at execution. This might possibly be the fault of translation; I've read Dandelion Dynasty and I thought Ken Liu did a good job with it, but translating is the not the same as writing a new work. Might be cultural differences, too (and I'm sure that is a big part of why the beginning of TBP falls flat). I loved the basic conceit in The Dark Forest
    The aliens from TBP are still approaching Earth, and now have surveillance of the planet. They know everything anyone says or does. So Earth sets up "The Wallflower Project," where a handful of people are given dictatorial powers, with the goal of stopping the aliens. They can marshal any resource, give any order, and never have to explain themselves--since the second they vocalize their plans, the aliens will know and adjust. The book follows one of the wallflowers, but you get to see the others as they each come up with multilayered plans trying to trick the aliens. The main character mostly dicks around, getting a beautiful mansion for himself with the most expensive wine, a beautiful assistant, and so on--and you the reader get to spend most of the book wondering if he has a plan or is just taking advantage of his powers as a wallflower.

    It's really cool in theory, and made the book a worthwhile read IMO, but the execution was kind of middling. I wasn't a fan of Death's End. I haven't revisited TBP since shortly after it first came out in English, but IIRC I particularly liked the mystery of the virtual world in it. I liked the middle more than I liked the end, where you start to get a clearer view of what's going on.

  • BrodyBrody The Watch The First ShoreRegistered User regular
    I don't know the I would call Three Body Problem great, but I do think it is one of the better explorations of the Dark Forest theory. I do think the character issues come from an alternative cultural perspective. Not that we are missing some aspect of their characterization, just that they aren't as important to the story as western characters are.

    "I will write your name in the ruin of them. I will paint you across history in the color of their blood."

    The Monster Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson
    webguy20
  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    Brody wrote: »
    I don't know the I would call Three Body Problem great, but I do think it is one of the better explorations of the Dark Forest theory. I do think the character issues come from an alternative cultural perspective. Not that we are missing some aspect of their characterization, just that they aren't as important to the story as western characters are.

    Maybe the rest of the trilogy is but the first novel doesn't really explore that theory at all. And I'm okay with a novel with paper-thin characters who just walk around speaking the author's mind - I've read almost everything Neal Stephenson has written, after all - but if that's going to be the case then the plot or the ideas have to carry the show. The plot here is also basically incidental to the ideas and the ideas are...dumb. Like I said, maybe the rest of the trilogy does a great job of exploring them but really the only thing the first novel seems to have to say is
    "Faced with an unknown alien civilization a lot of humans would probably be happy to project their own goals and desires on said aliens."

    Which could be an interesting idea to explore in depth but here we get a shallow description of a couple of factions' reactions amidst an absolute ocean of terrible science fantasy masquerading as hard sci-fi (based on the length and depth of the exposition of completely nonsensical physical systems) and a completely unimaginative stab at making an allegorical history of an alien civilization based on almost no data.

    If the idea were to really dive into how humans would react to an unknowable alien society then we'd need humans with actual inner lives whom we could then watch react to and deal with aliens. We instead have cardboard cut-outs who do things but for no explored reasons.

    If the idea were to look at how an alien civilization would interpret unknowable humans then we would need...well..aliens who don't immediately and perfectly extrapolate from a couple of kilobytes of description how human civilization will react to specific stimulu and then install magical, ubiquitous, perfect surveillance technology so that they know literally everything about human society.

    And if it were about how two societies of aliens would interact and communicate then we'd need something more than a magically perfect self-translating communication protocol which instantly enables perfect transmission of any facts the senders feel are relevant.

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  • knitdanknitdan Registered User regular
    I tried to get into Ken Liu’s Dandelion Trilogy but i bounced off the second book hard.

    And I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing but even parts of book 1 rubbed me the wrong way

    Spoilers for book 1 and 2 i guess
    It felt at times like either he didn’t know who the protagonist of the story was, or was resisting the idea of a protagonist. The two friends had an agreement...whoever captured the capital would get to be emperor. The one who came from nothing managed to do so. The aristocrat warrior didn’t, but expected his friend to just hand it over to him and renege on the agreement. And for a lot of the book it felt like the author was siding with the sore loser.

    Then In book 2 it becomes extremely obvious early on that the empress is plotting against everything the emperor stands for, and he’s portrayed as completely powerless (And possibly unwilling or oblivious) to stop any of it. All the big heroes of book 1 are betrayed by her and She just gets away with that shit. At least in the first couple hundred pages of the book, which is when i stopped reading because i was just done.

    Again I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, or what. But the whole approach is just mystifying to my sensibilities

    “I was quick when I came in here, I’m twice as quick now”
    -Indiana Solo, runner of blades
  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    edited May 14
    I hadn't realized the Dandelion Trilogy was the same author as Three-Body Problem. I read Grace of Kings a couple of years ago and sort of enjoyed it. Parts of it were fun and others interesting but by the end I felt like I'd read a history textbook about a fantasy world. I didn't feel at all invested in what was going on and if there were any dramatic stakes left at the end of the first book to make me want to keep reading I don't recall them now so I never bothered with the sequels.

    One of my co-workers loves Liu's writing. She's Chinese, though, and read them in their original language. She says he doesn't write interesting characters on purpose but has so far failed to explain why that's the case or why that would be desirable. Maybe he's just a really gifted writer in terms of his Chinese prose and they're just losing volumes in translation.

    Edit: Nevermind, I'm dumb. The author of the one is the translator of the other.

    I guess I like Ken Liu better than Cixin. At least I didn't actively regret reading Grace of Kings.

    CptHamilton on
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  • BrodyBrody The Watch The First ShoreRegistered User regular
    I haven't read any of Ken Liu's stuff, so I dont really have any way to comment on how he affected the translations of the Dark Forest trilogy.
    Brody wrote: »
    I don't know the I would call Three Body Problem great, but I do think it is one of the better explorations of the Dark Forest theory. I do think the character issues come from an alternative cultural perspective. Not that we are missing some aspect of their characterization, just that they aren't as important to the story as western characters are.

    Maybe the rest of the trilogy is but the first novel doesn't really explore that theory at all. And I'm okay with a novel with paper-thin characters who just walk around speaking the author's mind - I've read almost everything Neal Stephenson has written, after all - but if that's going to be the case then the plot or the ideas have to carry the show. The plot here is also basically incidental to the ideas and the ideas are...dumb. Like I said, maybe the rest of the trilogy does a great job of exploring them but really the only thing the first novel seems to have to say is
    "Faced with an unknown alien civilization a lot of humans would probably be happy to project their own goals and desires on said aliens."

    Which could be an interesting idea to explore in depth but here we get a shallow description of a couple of factions' reactions amidst an absolute ocean of terrible science fantasy masquerading as hard sci-fi (based on the length and depth of the exposition of completely nonsensical physical systems) and a completely unimaginative stab at making an allegorical history of an alien civilization based on almost no data.

    If the idea were to really dive into how humans would react to an unknowable alien society then we'd need humans with actual inner lives whom we could then watch react to and deal with aliens. We instead have cardboard cut-outs who do things but for no explored reasons.

    If the idea were to look at how an alien civilization would interpret unknowable humans then we would need...well..aliens who don't immediately and perfectly extrapolate from a couple of kilobytes of description how human civilization will react to specific stimulu and then install magical, ubiquitous, perfect surveillance technology so that they know literally everything about human society.

    And if it were about how two societies of aliens would interact and communicate then we'd need something more than a magically perfect self-translating communication protocol which instantly enables perfect transmission of any facts the senders feel are relevant.

    I think I agree with most of the criticism of the book you have hear, and although they do look a little more at how humans react to unknowable alien species in future books, the author never does a very good job at most of the individual aspects of the book. I think part of the issue is, as it's been explained to me, Chinese sci-fi is a relatively new phenomenon, or at least "Western Style" sci-fi as written by Chinese authors. I don't remember where I read it, maybe it was an interview with Liu Cixin or Ken Liu, but they talked about how they loved reading sci-fi, but all they had was translated versions of Asimov, etc.

    Ultimately I don't think any of the books are very good. They jump around a lot, the characters are unbelievably flat, the "sci-fi" aspect of it is very much glossed over, but I appreciated reading something that I felt was fairly clearly written from an entirely new (to me) cultural perspective. It also was one of the first "Dark Forest" theory novels I read, so that certainly gave it an edge that I might not have felt if I were to read it for the first time now. It really showed me how much I tend to use sci-fi as a way to look past the shitstorm the world is currently experiencing, and the bleakness of a Dark Forest universe was actually really hard for me mentally for a while there, and I may be giving the novels extra weight because of that.

    I also read Ball Lightning by Liu Cixin, and I felt it had pretty much all of the same issues, w/o the larger overarching support of a grand theory of alien species interaction.

    "I will write your name in the ruin of them. I will paint you across history in the color of their blood."

    The Monster Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson
  • jakobaggerjakobagger LO THY DREAD EMPIRE CHAOS IS RESTORED Registered User regular
    Three-Body Problem and particularly its two sequels felt a lot like Asimov's Foundation to me when I read them so that tracks.

    Generational time scale, big ideas, generally pretty thin characters (especially the few women)

    I enjoyed them but at the same time found the bleakness of the Dark Forest theory etc almost...offensive?

    DoodmannBlackDragon480
  • PhillisherePhillishere Registered User regular
    Echo wrote: »
    Has Crouch's writing improved over time? I tried reading Pines because I was hoping it might be better than the TV show based on it and the writing was so bad I gave up about 25% of the way through, and I don't generally give up on books once I start them. The synopses for his newer books sound interesting but that first impression was pretty dire.

    It wasn't bad, but I definitely felt things were a bit off and could have used more editing.

    Crouch is the modern Dean R. Koontz.

  • StraygatsbyStraygatsby Registered User regular
    Echo wrote: »
    Has Crouch's writing improved over time? I tried reading Pines because I was hoping it might be better than the TV show based on it and the writing was so bad I gave up about 25% of the way through, and I don't generally give up on books once I start them. The synopses for his newer books sound interesting but that first impression was pretty dire.

    It wasn't bad, but I definitely felt things were a bit off and could have used more editing.

    Crouch is the modern Dean R. Koontz.

    Dude[tte], don't do Koontz that disservice. Koontz is top notch airport novel. Crouch is not on the same level.

    CptHamiltonBlackDragon480
  • StraygatsbyStraygatsby Registered User regular
    I had to look back a few pages, but I started Fall or Dodge in Hell by Stephenson around March 4th.

    I'm still like 60% in, and I read a lot. Jesus, Neal.

  • AntoshkaAntoshka Miauen Oil Change LazarusRegistered User regular
    jakobagger wrote: »
    Three-Body Problem and particularly its two sequels felt a lot like Asimov's Foundation to me when I read them so that tracks.

    Generational time scale, big ideas, generally pretty thin characters (especially the few women)

    Baxter does this with Destiny's Children, as well - which I enjoyed a great deal more than TBP, though both have fairly thin characterization.

    n57PM0C.jpg
  • PhillisherePhillishere Registered User regular
    Echo wrote: »
    Has Crouch's writing improved over time? I tried reading Pines because I was hoping it might be better than the TV show based on it and the writing was so bad I gave up about 25% of the way through, and I don't generally give up on books once I start them. The synopses for his newer books sound interesting but that first impression was pretty dire.

    It wasn't bad, but I definitely felt things were a bit off and could have used more editing.

    Crouch is the modern Dean R. Koontz.

    Dude[tte], don't do Koontz that disservice. Koontz is top notch airport novel. Crouch is not on the same level.

    I also just looked it up and Dean R. Koontz is still the modern Dean R. Koontz. I guess I didn't expect him to stop writing, but I assumed he had at some point.

  • StraygatsbyStraygatsby Registered User regular
    Echo wrote: »
    Has Crouch's writing improved over time? I tried reading Pines because I was hoping it might be better than the TV show based on it and the writing was so bad I gave up about 25% of the way through, and I don't generally give up on books once I start them. The synopses for his newer books sound interesting but that first impression was pretty dire.

    It wasn't bad, but I definitely felt things were a bit off and could have used more editing.

    Crouch is the modern Dean R. Koontz.

    Dude[tte], don't do Koontz that disservice. Koontz is top notch airport novel. Crouch is not on the same level.

    I also just looked it up and Dean R. Koontz is still the modern Dean R. Koontz. I guess I didn't expect him to stop writing, but I assumed he had at some point.

    Admittedly, I haven't read his new books for 20 years...so you might be on to something. =P

    Phillishere
  • BrodyBrody The Watch The First ShoreRegistered User regular
    Just starting Children of Ruin, and man do these novels really push the bleakness of our human condition.

    "I will write your name in the ruin of them. I will paint you across history in the color of their blood."

    The Monster Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson
    Fuzzy Cumulonimbus CloudAntoshka
  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo Like a bad lobster in a dark cellar Registered User regular
    It turns out I hadn't actually read The Left Hand of Darkness, so I'm now reading that.

    Good exploration of interesting sociological concepts but with a really dated writing style that harks back to the mass produced fantasy I never got on with as an eleven year old, so standard Le Guin so far

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
    knitdanTumin
  • knitdanknitdan Registered User regular
    Yeah there’s a very “70s scifi” flavor to the whole thing which, i guess is to be expected given it was written back then

    Specifically the interspersed mythology vignettes that have little or nothing to do with the story and seem to be just there for worldbuilding

    But kind of a disappointment given how many people have gushed about it over the years

    “I was quick when I came in here, I’m twice as quick now”
    -Indiana Solo, runner of blades
  • jakobaggerjakobagger LO THY DREAD EMPIRE CHAOS IS RESTORED Registered User regular
    Mojo_Jojo wrote: »
    really dated writing style that harks back to the mass produced fantasy I never got on with as an eleven year old, so standard Le Guin so far

    Oof, this is making me a bit mad honestly.

    More constructively, while Le Guin might be my favourite author (to the extent that I believe in that concept), I also found Left Hand a little hard to fully get into. Super don't remember being reminded of bad fantasy though.

    MahnmutSo It Goes
  • AiouaAioua Ora Occidens Ora OptimaRegistered User regular
    I just read Left Hand for the first time as month ago, and I can agree that it's a bit harder going than, say, The Dispossessed.

    I think part of it is how rapidly feminism and gender theory has evolved since it was written. Some bits now come off as odd or sexist if you're just looking at the surface and not considering how the context has changed from then to now.

    life's a game that you're bound to lose / like using a hammer to pound in screws
    fuck up once and you break your thumb / if you're happy at all then you're god damn dumb
    that's right we're on a fucked up cruise / God is dead but at least we have booze
    bad things happen, no one knows why / the sun burns out and everyone dies
    Mojo_JojoBlackDragon480jakobaggercredeiki
  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    Koontz isn't a good writer but I can get through (most) Koontz books and just think, "Well, that was alright, I guess". They're generally unremarkable for good or ill. They tend to be repetitive. But they're basically competent. The plots hang together, the characters aren't terribly deep but they make sense as (sometimes caricatures of) human beings, and the prose does its job of conveying scene and actions.

    I could not say that much for Crouch, based on the one novel of his I tried to read.

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    Echo
  • Solomaxwell6Solomaxwell6 Registered User regular
    knitdan wrote: »
    I tried to get into Ken Liu’s Dandelion Trilogy but i bounced off the second book hard.

    And I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing but even parts of book 1 rubbed me the wrong way

    Spoilers for book 1 and 2 i guess
    It felt at times like either he didn’t know who the protagonist of the story was, or was resisting the idea of a protagonist. The two friends had an agreement...whoever captured the capital would get to be emperor. The one who came from nothing managed to do so. The aristocrat warrior didn’t, but expected his friend to just hand it over to him and renege on the agreement. And for a lot of the book it felt like the author was siding with the sore loser.

    Then In book 2 it becomes extremely obvious early on that the empress is plotting against everything the emperor stands for, and he’s portrayed as completely powerless (And possibly unwilling or oblivious) to stop any of it. All the big heroes of book 1 are betrayed by her and She just gets away with that shit. At least in the first couple hundred pages of the book, which is when i stopped reading because i was just done.

    Again I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, or what. But the whole approach is just mystifying to my sensibilities

    Dandelion Dynasty was inspired by Chinese classics like Water Margin and Romance of the Three Kingdoms and it shows. It needs to be read with that context in mind to understand some of the decisions Liu made.

  • JokermanJokerman Registered User regular
    I just finished The First Bad man by Miranda July, and it was a good read, if a little predictable in places.
    The whole unbalanced power dynamic between Cheryl and Clee really colored a lot of the book for me. Also the details about Clee's foot fungus really put me out of it, like Tarintino: The novel

  • credeikicredeiki Registered User regular
    Speaking of things that are bad... I've been listening to The Three-Body Problem. After the first 25% I thought, "Well, this isn't very good but maybe I'm being swayed by the nature of translated Chinese prose" but the further it got the worse it was. The ending, which I was given to understand was the best part, is next to gibberish. The science is so fucking bad. Like I get that it's science fiction but it's "I sort of skimmed some physics wikipedia articles for buzzwords" levels bad physics. The characters are barely there and almost uniformly unbelievable. The plot wavers between "meh" and nonsense. Usually when I don't enjoy a book that's won a bunch of awards I can at least see why other people would have thought highly of it despite it not being my jam. I have no idea why anyone would give this thing an award.

    I thought the Three Body Problem had amazing ambiance. There was such an aura of mystery throughout much of the first book--you really don't know what it's about at all. The scientist characters are all thin but believable, to me, and to me as a biophysics PhD the book feels more grounded in a physics and engineering mindset than almost anything else I've read (except for the
    sophons, which are fantasy and not scifi, and pretty silly, but they're cool and they make the story work, so ok
    )
    There's a discussion in there I remember that specifically evokes resolution and image processing to make some sort of point and I recall thinking how well that spoke to me. I think Cixin Liu is an engineer and that totally makes sense to me.

    But yeah, the reason it appealed to me was the mystery and the ambiance
    and the utter alienness of the dehydration, specifically, and those parts where he's in the computer game trying to shepherd this civ through time and they all dehydrate and it's like what is this, why is this happening, what is this about, and you do not know it's about aliens, even, for a while--so interesting

    I don't as much like the latter two books because there is no more mystery and instead it's yeah more the time passing and concepts of dark forest and some cool tech concepts and some boring tech concepts, but not a very thoughtful sociological view. They were still good reads but they were missing what really drew me to the first one.

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  • credeikicredeiki Registered User regular
    Aioua wrote: »
    I just read Left Hand for the first time as month ago, and I can agree that it's a bit harder going than, say, The Dispossessed.

    I think part of it is how rapidly feminism and gender theory has evolved since it was written. Some bits now come off as odd or sexist if you're just looking at the surface and not considering how the context has changed from then to now.

    Yes, Left Hand of Darkness is kind of a dry novel to me. Because the protagonist of Left Hand of Darkness is such a black box without too much inner life or wants and needs outside of his job (which makes sense, I mean it's sort of his job as ambassador to be that way), it makes it hard to get into the book, I think. I do like the very clear exposition she does with gender and I think it's still incredibly relevant and just one of the clearest ways anyone has ever laid out what gender roles do.

    In contrast, I *love* the Dispossessed; it is one of my favorite novels and I was so moved by it and connected to it.

    I need to read more books by her some time!

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  • BrodyBrody The Watch The First ShoreRegistered User regular
    See, I found Left Hand amazingly intriguing, while Dispossessed just felt like a dream of an anarchist utopia, and I had a really hard time getting into it. I think I gave up about 3/4 of the way through.

    "I will write your name in the ruin of them. I will paint you across history in the color of their blood."

    The Monster Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson
  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    credeiki wrote: »
    Speaking of things that are bad... I've been listening to The Three-Body Problem. After the first 25% I thought, "Well, this isn't very good but maybe I'm being swayed by the nature of translated Chinese prose" but the further it got the worse it was. The ending, which I was given to understand was the best part, is next to gibberish. The science is so fucking bad. Like I get that it's science fiction but it's "I sort of skimmed some physics wikipedia articles for buzzwords" levels bad physics. The characters are barely there and almost uniformly unbelievable. The plot wavers between "meh" and nonsense. Usually when I don't enjoy a book that's won a bunch of awards I can at least see why other people would have thought highly of it despite it not being my jam. I have no idea why anyone would give this thing an award.

    I thought the Three Body Problem had amazing ambiance. There was such an aura of mystery throughout much of the first book--you really don't know what it's about at all. The scientist characters are all thin but believable, to me, and to me as a biophysics PhD the book feels more grounded in a physics and engineering mindset than almost anything else I've read (except for the
    sophons, which are fantasy and not scifi, and pretty silly, but they're cool and they make the story work, so ok
    )
    There's a discussion in there I remember that specifically evokes resolution and image processing to make some sort of point and I recall thinking how well that spoke to me. I think Cixin Liu is an engineer and that totally makes sense to me.

    But yeah, the reason it appealed to me was the mystery and the ambiance
    and the utter alienness of the dehydration, specifically, and those parts where he's in the computer game trying to shepherd this civ through time and they all dehydrate and it's like what is this, why is this happening, what is this about, and you do not know it's about aliens, even, for a while--so interesting

    I don't as much like the latter two books because there is no more mystery and instead it's yeah more the time passing and concepts of dark forest and some cool tech concepts and some boring tech concepts, but not a very thoughtful sociological view. They were still good reads but they were missing what really drew me to the first one.

    It didn't seem terribly mysterious to me.
    The 'game' being set on an alien world with transplanted Earth historical figures seemed likely after the first segment and definite after the second.

    The setup of the 'game' made it entirely un-interesting, though. The addition of Earth historical figures/settings means you don't get to see the alien world. And the fact that technical advancement was dependent on players means not even the broad strokes of history were accurate to the subjects.

    The dehydration thing was different, I guess, but also dumb. Suspending biological function to the extent that your body is unchanged for millions of years takes a lot more than dehydrating. The whole thing seemed like someone who had no idea how biology or ecosystems work but was familiar with jerky and how it doesn't go bad as quickly as regular meat so based aliens off it.

    The only really mysterious aspects were in regard to the stuff that happens to Wong prior to him getting into the game. The whole countdown bit and the cosmic background morse code. And all of that is waved away via pure magic in the last bit of the book. I think that may have pissed me off more than anything else. "Here's a thing for you to wonder how it could possibly have happened! And everything I tell you will make it seem even more impossible! Right up until I shrug and say, "Meh, a wizard did it" just before the credits roll."

    The physics and math aspects were complete bullshit. The computer engineering bits (which is what the author's background is in) were more technically accurate but utterly uninspired.
    "Alright, we're building an analog computer to perform a specific calculation using humans with flags...and we're going to slavishly emulate an electronic computer to do it, down to writing an OS to host software to do the calculation!"

    It's absurd. Building a human computer is amusing and mildly interesting but the way they went about it was so silly as to be comedic.

    Same problem when they get around to the sophons. It's an AI system written as firmware into the structure of a proton but it has a 2d display screen and an OS that reports satus in text messages? Really? He couldn't come up with anything more fantastical for his absurd tech machine?

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  • BrodyBrody The Watch The First ShoreRegistered User regular
    I've been watching some books reviews, and he did some reviews of the First Law series, and he kept going on and on about how amazing and deep each of the characters were, and I'm wondering if I can trust any of his opinions anymore.

    "I will write your name in the ruin of them. I will paint you across history in the color of their blood."

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  • credeikicredeiki Registered User regular
    credeiki wrote: »
    Speaking of things that are bad... I've been listening to The Three-Body Problem. After the first 25% I thought, "Well, this isn't very good but maybe I'm being swayed by the nature of translated Chinese prose" but the further it got the worse it was. The ending, which I was given to understand was the best part, is next to gibberish. The science is so fucking bad. Like I get that it's science fiction but it's "I sort of skimmed some physics wikipedia articles for buzzwords" levels bad physics. The characters are barely there and almost uniformly unbelievable. The plot wavers between "meh" and nonsense. Usually when I don't enjoy a book that's won a bunch of awards I can at least see why other people would have thought highly of it despite it not being my jam. I have no idea why anyone would give this thing an award.

    I thought the Three Body Problem had amazing ambiance. There was such an aura of mystery throughout much of the first book--you really don't know what it's about at all. The scientist characters are all thin but believable, to me, and to me as a biophysics PhD the book feels more grounded in a physics and engineering mindset than almost anything else I've read (except for the
    sophons, which are fantasy and not scifi, and pretty silly, but they're cool and they make the story work, so ok
    )
    There's a discussion in there I remember that specifically evokes resolution and image processing to make some sort of point and I recall thinking how well that spoke to me. I think Cixin Liu is an engineer and that totally makes sense to me.

    But yeah, the reason it appealed to me was the mystery and the ambiance
    and the utter alienness of the dehydration, specifically, and those parts where he's in the computer game trying to shepherd this civ through time and they all dehydrate and it's like what is this, why is this happening, what is this about, and you do not know it's about aliens, even, for a while--so interesting

    I don't as much like the latter two books because there is no more mystery and instead it's yeah more the time passing and concepts of dark forest and some cool tech concepts and some boring tech concepts, but not a very thoughtful sociological view. They were still good reads but they were missing what really drew me to the first one.

    It didn't seem terribly mysterious to me.
    The 'game' being set on an alien world with transplanted Earth historical figures seemed likely after the first segment and definite after the second.

    The setup of the 'game' made it entirely un-interesting, though. The addition of Earth historical figures/settings means you don't get to see the alien world. And the fact that technical advancement was dependent on players means not even the broad strokes of history were accurate to the subjects.

    The dehydration thing was different, I guess, but also dumb. Suspending biological function to the extent that your body is unchanged for millions of years takes a lot more than dehydrating. The whole thing seemed like someone who had no idea how biology or ecosystems work but was familiar with jerky and how it doesn't go bad as quickly as regular meat so based aliens off it.

    The only really mysterious aspects were in regard to the stuff that happens to Wong prior to him getting into the game. The whole countdown bit and the cosmic background morse code. And all of that is waved away via pure magic in the last bit of the book. I think that may have pissed me off more than anything else. "Here's a thing for you to wonder how it could possibly have happened! And everything I tell you will make it seem even more impossible! Right up until I shrug and say, "Meh, a wizard did it" just before the credits roll."

    The physics and math aspects were complete bullshit. The computer engineering bits (which is what the author's background is in) were more technically accurate but utterly uninspired.
    "Alright, we're building an analog computer to perform a specific calculation using humans with flags...and we're going to slavishly emulate an electronic computer to do it, down to writing an OS to host software to do the calculation!"

    It's absurd. Building a human computer is amusing and mildly interesting but the way they went about it was so silly as to be comedic.

    Same problem when they get around to the sophons. It's an AI system written as firmware into the structure of a proton but it has a 2d display screen and an OS that reports satus in text messages? Really? He couldn't come up with anything more fantastical for his absurd tech machine?

    I don't read fiction for realistic science--science is horribly boring, in my experience. I read it for character, aesthetic, mood, plot, setting--sometimes in that order, sometimes not. Three Body Problem has really solid mood and aesthetic--the doom everyone feels from the physics experiments failing in ways they can't understand was really emotionally affecting. The fact that I just had no idea what the book was about and then was like 'whoa, wait really?' felt neat. The way scientists related to their jobs worked for me. The way the trauma from the cultural revolution quietly trickled down into everyone's mindset was also very interesting to me.
    And the way Liu writes about science--even when what he's writing about is far future stuff--feels quite real, the way people take time to develop their approach and analyze data and build their careers. I like the way he talks about satellites and signal transmission and signal transduction a lot; I also like the way he talks about data compression and encoding. The specific applications, I mean--yeah, of course they're fanciful, it's a fiction book about an imagined scenario.
    The countdown was so striking for me, too. It really created a mood. Extremely strong visual. And I found the game interesting because it was strange--this game about humans, but off, because it was secretly about aliens, and it just got this really uncanny weird feeling because of it.

    Hah I'm so inarticulate about why it struck me so hard but the ambiance of the book really resonated with me so I didn't mind this unfamiliar-to-me writing style where the characters' inner lives are not dealt with, and I was more charmed by the parts that stopped being about near future tech and started being more fantastical (but I like fantasy as well as scifi and while I do categorize most books as one or the other, I don't at all mind when those lines are blurred/crossed).

    That said--it isn't a book I'd universally recommend/I generally haven't recommended it to people. A lot of readers--most even?--seem to bounce off it hard.

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  • BrodyBrody The Watch The First ShoreRegistered User regular
    I've tended to recommend it with the caveat that people probably won't love it, but that it provides an interesting alternative to most of what you would see in Western fiction.

    "I will write your name in the ruin of them. I will paint you across history in the color of their blood."

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  • flamebroiledchickenflamebroiledchicken Registered User regular
    Brody wrote: »
    See, I found Left Hand amazingly intriguing, while Dispossessed just felt like a dream of an anarchist utopia, and I had a really hard time getting into it. I think I gave up about 3/4 of the way through.

    Anarres is not a utopia, it has plenty of problems, which are why Shevek leaves. But it is definitely a book-length examination of "what could a possible anarchist society look like?" which is why I thought the overall plot of Left Hand was more engaging, even though I preferred the themes and ideas of The Dispossessed.

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  • BrodyBrody The Watch The First ShoreRegistered User regular
    Just finished Children of Ruin. It was petty interesting. It's been a while since I read Time, so I was scrambling a little bit at the very beginning to figure out how the sequel connected, but it became clear enough before long.
    The idea of the uplifted octopuses was certainly interesting, especially with the distributed intelligences. I can see a criticism that maybe some parts felt rushed, or maybe not entirely thought through, and the octopi certainly made for aggravating "characters" at times, but then why should an alien intelligence operate how I'm used to (and also, it's not like humanity is any better).

    The Nodians were definitely strange. Definitely alien.

    Also, Kern invading Meshners implant was very aggravating. It ended up serving the over arching story, but it still bothered me how she kept causing damage to his biologics.

    "I will write your name in the ruin of them. I will paint you across history in the color of their blood."

    The Monster Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson
  • BogartBogart Streetwise Hercules Fighting The Rising Odds Registered User, Moderator mod
    Ramsey Campbell’s Incarnate. Lots of nasty understatement and creeping dread and things not quite right, but the crucial moment at the climax is a bit muddy.

  • AbsalonAbsalon Registered User regular
    edited May 23
    Been on a bit of a Karin Slaughter bent. Her books can be tough reads due to the horrid crimes and tragic character stories but she is an absolutely splendid crime writer and I'm surprised it took so long for Netflix to make a series of one of her works (Pieces of Her). I would very much like to see a TV or film adaptation of a Will Trent book but proper casting, acting and direction would be utterly paramount to do the character justice.

    Absalon on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Someone on Facebook linked one of those "how many of these books have you read" quizzes, this one with 1000 entries (all very mainstream and drawn from what looks like both lists of bestsellers as well as the sort of straightforward, curated lists you might get handed at school). I did it all, which took a while because the site had tiny grey text on blinding white (I continue to maintain that people who make that design choice should be put to death, publicly) and it evoked a lot of complicated feelings, to wit

    - I'm sad that I can't read remotely as quickly as I used to. It will never again be the breezy, casual activity it once was.

    - I haven't re-read a bunch of my favorite childrens' books in years and years, stuff like Hatchet or the Ramona books or A Wrinkle in Time. There are also a bunch of kids' books I was curious about but never
    got around to, like Maniac Magee (why is the cover a pair of running sneakers? Was Maniac Magee a track runner? I've never found out!), or anything by Lois Lowry like Number the Stars, which just exuded Very Seriousness to me as a youf.

    - Those old Newbery winners are more interesting to me than the modern "YA" that was listed, which mostly seems to be about people with superpowers in weird dystopias? I need to find a list of good novels for the youth that aren't, like, warmed-over CW TV show premises. Such must exist, right?

    - There was plenty of garbage on the list like Ayn Rand or shit like Who Moved My Cheese that makes my heart heavy that people read it. Shitty books will always be with us, but I thought Who Moved My Cheese was a fad. I don't want to think of it as a thing that people excitedly recommend to other people.

    - I want to read more of the 19th century classics. I never finished Vanity Fair or The Portrait of a Lady. I want to read more Dumas. And I want to re-read The Count of Monte Cristo, one of my favorite things ever.

    - Short of John Updike novels about professors banging their TAs, I don't know if anything has aged worse than late 90s-early 2000s-era hipster lit fic, that sort of...Dave Eggers, McSweeneys era of Gen X ironists. Not because they're bad people or racists or anything like that (well, David Foster Wallace did hold a woman out of a moving car, apparently), but because their fictions presume a world where there's so little of import going on that a man can profitably muse for twenty pages on the cultural value of, idk, Keds sneakers.

    - Every time I see The Mists of Avalon I'm like ooh, this is an important work of feminist SF&F, I need to read it! But then I think well shit to appreciate it I need to first read the whole Arthurian cycle otherwise I won't get half of what's going on! And then I don't read any of it. This has been happening to me for 25 years.

    - oh man Nick Hornby I remember when I went through a phase where I read like eight of his books in a row and now I barely remember anything from any of them. LIterary cotton candy, gone as soon as it hits the mouth. But maybe I should keep that in my back pocket for the next time I want cotton candy.

    - I have read a reasonable number of female authors but I need to read more. I really don't want to read The Red Tent, though. It sounds like it's about menstruation.

    - I wonder how well Kurt Vonnegut has aged. I loved him so much but I'm kind of terrified to revisit Breakfast of Champions in case it's two hundred pages of only-a-teenager-could-think-this-is-deep puerility. I'm pretty sure Player Piano will still be good, though.

    - man people really like serial killers huh? I never got that.

    - aw shit Umberto Eco it's my BOI

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  • The Zombie PenguinThe Zombie Penguin Eternal Hungry Corpse Registered User regular
    Sooo! Not only does Naomi Novik have a new novel (first of a trilogy) coming out in September - A Deadly Education, but Martha Wells has a new murderbot novella coming out april 2021.

    Now i just need Max Gladstone to publish more Craft Sequence Novels (Empress of Forever was a fine book, but a bit too gonzo sci-fi for me. Goddam do i want to see an animated adaption that'd do it credit tho') and i'll be a very happy mockery of life.

    Ideas hate it when you anthropomorphize them
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  • knitdanknitdan Registered User regular
    I started Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett

    It’s the sequel to Foundryside and the second in a planned trilogy

    This almost sounds like a cliche but i really enjoy how it treats magic. Sort of a cross between programming and aclhemy.

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  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    Finally got around to finishing Gideon the Ninth. It was really good! Somewhat bummed the sequel isn't available yet since I'm curious where it will go. (I know the first chapter is available but I've tried to get away from reading those in the past few years... I'll just wait for the whole thing)

    Also finished Ten Thousand Doors of January, which was really good. Now on to This Is How You Lose a Time War, which is weird but I like it so far for what it is, and Lovecraft Country, which is also weird in an entirely different way but I'm also enjoying. It seems to be more of an anthology than a novel, which is fine, I guess, but each time one of the segments ends I kind of wish it would hang out with those characters and explore that story further. This is why I generally avoid short fiction.

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