Book Recommendations?

I have finished the second series of the Emberverse novels. It really shows how the author didn't have a strong enough outline going into it. Originally planned as a three book series and then expanded to four and then to five and finally sort of ending at book seven, but really just limping into the third series. I say sort of ending at book seven because the logical conclusion to book seven happens at about the 75% mark and then the last 25% is what should have been the beginning of book one of the next series.

The first four books (The Sunrise Lands, The Scourge of God, The Sword of the Lady, and The High King of Montival) were really good. It was a very focused story about a small group on a quest to find a magical sword in post-apocalyptic North America traveling from Oregon to Nantucket. It took it's time and did a good job filling in the details of what had become of the areas they were traveling through in the twenty plus years since The Change (an apocalyptic event in early 1998 that caused electricity and combustion to stop working the way we understand them to and also that opened the door to allow magic to flow back into the world).

And then the series hit the train wreck that is the fifth book (The Tears of the Sun). I have read books 1-5 twice. I was reading this series as it was released and book five had been said to be the final book up until right before it was released. This book put the breaks on and derailed the whole series by going back in time and focusing on the event that happened in the Oregon area in the two years it took the quest to make it to Nantucket and back. They introduced new viewpoint characters and revisited a few from the first set of Emberverse novels (which were really good) and spent a whole book describing the meals people were eating as they were jumping between multiple flashbacks sequences. It was a frame story clusterf*ck of epic proportions and it killed my interest in continuing the series the first time I read it back in 2011.

The next two books are better, but they feel rushed and they continue to introduce new viewpoint characters who mostly seemed to have been introduced so that their children will have a backstory in the third set of novels. The final confrontation between the hero and the evil Prophet of The Church Universal and Triumphant (a cult founded by the Unabomber after The Change, but largely based on the real world CUT) felt rushed and very anti-climatic and happened maybe 65-70% of the way through book seven (The Given Sacrifice), with most of the rest of the book rushing through the next twenty some odd years in order to setup events for the third series.

I have started working on the third series which mainly focuses on the second generation of characters born after The Change. So far it is going well (only on book two), but I would have liked to see a cleaner break between the second and third series like there was between the first and second series.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Malor wrote:

Yeah, those are quite good, but I don't think they're finished yet. Folks who don't want to jump in before there's a definite ending might want to hold off a bit. She's writing quickly and there's no reason to think she won't finish, and even now you won't be left hanging, but it's not all the way done yet. If she follows her past publishing history, the next one might be out within a couple of months. (12-15 months for each, so far, she's been working pretty fast.)

Are you talking about Victoria Schwab's Shades of Magic series? If so, the trilogy has a very definitive ending. While there may be more books to follow, there is no reason to wait on them. The three books are very much a self-contained story.

Agreed! She did start a new series that has recently released the 2nd book. I started the first one of the Villains series, but it started slower than her others so jumped over to another newly released series and haven't made my way back to it yet.

Mario_Alba wrote:

As a matter of fact, I just finished N.K. Jemisin's "The Fifth Season," and I thought it was outstanding.

I finished the Broken Earth trilogy and promptly put Jemisin at the top of my "Best Authors of All Time" list, bumping the two-decades long reign of Iain Banks.

And speaking of Banks, I've been saving his last book The Quarry ever since he died, as it's the last book of his I'd not yet read. As I put the last book of Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy down, I thought to myself "how the hell do I follow that", and the answer was to pick up The Quarry.

I just finished it last week, and it's.....fine I guess. I never gelled with Banks' contemporary fiction anywhere near as well as I did with his sci-fi. The Quarry feels pretty Banksian, dark twisty characters and a weirdly come-full-circle protagonist who reminded me of Frank from The Wasp Factory a little - they're both oddball kids in weird rural surroundings who live with the dad that they have an enormously dysfunctional relationship with.

If you like The Marian or Seveneves, you will probably enjoy Daniel Suarez's Delta-V. It's near future sci-fi, about a billionaire driven space race, where a crew is sent to mine an in system asteroid.

It doesn't have the humor of The Martian. Or quite the level of math. However, it does still have the sense of plausibility.

Not sure if this will have a follow up or not. Seems stand alone, but there is room to go back to this story if he wants to.

MannishBoy wrote:

If you like The Marian or Seveneves, you will probably enjoy Daniel Suarez's Delta-V. It's near future sci-fi, about a billionaire driven space race, where a crew is sent to mine an in system asteroid.

It doesn't have the humor of The Martian. Or quite the level of math. However, it does still have the sense of plausibility.

Not sure if this will have a follow up or not. Seems stand alone, but there is room to go back to this story if he wants to.

May be my own bias, but everything he's done since the Daemon series hasn't been as good. Not bad per se, but just not as good. How does this one rate?

ranalin wrote:

May be my own bias, but everything he's done since the Daemon series hasn't been as good. Not bad per se, but just not as good. How does this one rate?

I haven't read past Freedom. I even have a couple of audiobooks downloaded from the library, but haven't started them.

Probably enjoyed this more than the gaming overlay on the Daemon series, but that's probably more taste vs book quality. YMMV.

Kindle Unlimited worth it for comics and audiobooks?

SallyNasty wrote:

Kindle Unlimited worth it for comics and audiobooks?

In spurts. Keep your eyes open, and you'll get 3 months for $1 on sale. Run out the three months, cancel, and within a couple of months, they'll run a similar deal again.

I just finished The Raven's Tower, Ann Leckie's recent fantasy novel. It was very good! It's interesting seeing it in relation to the Ancillary novels: although a very different sort of universe, it, too, has a really thoughtful and creative approach to identity and personhood and narrative structure. I hesitate to describe it too much, as it is somewhat deliberately opaque and part of the experience is figuring out what you're reading, but much of it is written in the second person, and it deals with a world in which there are many gods in conflict with each other, and it has very interesting rules for how gods operate. I see there's already been discussion on this a few pages back, but I too agree, thumbs up!

mrlogical wrote:

I just finished The Raven's Tower, Ann Leckie's recent fantasy novel. It was very good! It's interesting seeing it in relation to the Ancillary novels: although a very different sort of universe, it, too, has a really thoughtful and creative approach to identity and personhood and narrative structure. I hesitate to describe it too much, as it is somewhat deliberately opaque and part of the experience is figuring out what you're reading, but much of it is written in the second person, and it deals with a world in which there are many gods in conflict with each other, and it has very interesting rules for how gods operate. I see there's already been discussion on this a few pages back, but I too agree, thumbs up!

Great! I just picked it up for independent bookstore day!

SallyNasty wrote:

Kindle Unlimited worth it for comics and audiobooks?

Check out what is available via your public library.
Mine has lots of comics via Hoopla and audiobooks via Hoopla and Overdrive.

SallyNasty wrote:

Kindle Unlimited worth it for comics and audiobooks?

I think the selection differs by country so take all this with a grain of salt, but I have been quite impressed by the comic options and very disappointed by the audiobook offerings.

I don't think I have come across a single audiobook I have been interested in beyond "well I don't have anything else to listen too and this is free". My library has been a much better source here.

For comics, with the addition of a bunch of DC books a few months back, it feels like they have the first 2 or 3 volumes of most major titles going back the past 10 years or so. It's fantastic if you are looking to sample different books/characters/writers, but if you are already fairly up to date and looking to cut back on buying single issues or current trades it would be less useful.

I just finished The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling and it’s probably the most surprising first novel I’ve stumbled into in a while. It’s sci-fi psychological horror that takes place entirely in a sprawling, claustrophobic cave system with only two characters: Gyre is an impulsive, obstinate amateur spelunker who lies her way into this high-paying prospecting gig in order to afford a ticket off her crapsack homeworld, and Em is her handler who communicates with Gyre via radio from the surface and may not be entirely honest about the job or her motives. The two have to learn to work together as Gyre’s skills are pushed beyond their limit and the truth about Em and the cave system start to come to light.

Golden State by Ben Winters was interesting? I dunno there was a lot of hype around it and I breezed through in 2 days. Fun but not substantial.

Back to the LeGuin grind, finishing out the Hainish books with Left Hand of Darkness.

Ted Chiang has a new short story collection out called Exhalation. It's absolutely spectacular.

trichy wrote:

Ted Chiang has a new short story collection out called Exhalation. It's absolutely spectacular.

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Fixed.

On something of a whim, I read the first Mistborn novel, The Final Empire. Started off slow, but had me pretty well hooked halfway through. It felt a little YA starting out, I guess, but the setting and characters won me over. Looking forward to checking out the second book.

The second Era One Mistborn book is a bit of a setup for the third. It's not bad or anything, but definitely the weakest of the three, without the heist plot of the first or the scale of the third.

I read The Rook and Stiletto which were great fun (government sanctioned mutants Vs Mad Scientists), and borrowed one of my daughter's books for the first time (some kind of milestone at least), Six of Crows, which was sort of a YA Locke Lamora. Great fun and an interesting selection of characters.

The new Alex Benedict novel from Jack McDevitt is out, and it continues the series in his usual delightful fashion. “Octavia Gone”, I think it’s called. Tasty.

Finished all the Hainish books. Dispossessed and Left Hand of Darkness clearly the best here, but it was a fun romp. LeGuin does person confronted with situation that challenges their ideology and faith extremely well.

I'm reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Didion right now as I kind of put off starting in on Pushkin's The Idiot.

Didion's prose is hypnotic in a way I wasn't expecting.

beanman101283 wrote:

On something of a whim, I read the first Mistborn novel, The Final Empire. Started off slow, but had me pretty well hooked halfway through. It felt a little YA starting out, I guess, but the setting and characters won me over. Looking forward to checking out the second book.

You confused me, because I thought the first Mistborn novel was simply named "Mistborn". It seems they added "The Fallen Empire" subtitle in later printings.

Just finished the excellent A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine.

I thought the world-building was really well done, and in true space opera (a compliment) form, the characters are flawed and awesome and real.

Don't worry about this being "Book 1", she wraps this story up nicely while leaving room for tons of future expansion.

Edit: I should probably remember the correct name of the novel I just read...

Robear wrote:

The new Alex Benedict novel from Jack McDevitt is out, and it continues the series in his usual delightful fashion. “Octavia Gone”, I think it’s called. Tasty.

"Tasty & delightful" should be on the cover of all his books.
I gobble up all of his stuff.

mortalgroove wrote:
Robear wrote:

The new Alex Benedict novel from Jack McDevitt is out, and it continues the series in his usual delightful fashion. “Octavia Gone”, I think it’s called. Tasty.

"Tasty & delightful" should be on the cover of all his books.
I gobble up all of his stuff.

Picked up the first one some time ago but just started it because of this series of posts. Pretty good so far.

The series is what I'd call "gentle" SF. Emotional, but now dystopic or razor edged. It's about people and mysteries and the truths that lie behind our daily lives.

Looked at the Alex Benedict books before but never picked them up. Finally pushed off the fence, thanks to you all. Book 1 incoming.

One thing to know about McDevitt's Alex Benedict books. The first one, "A Talent for War", was written in 1989, and he put the characters and setting aside for a full 15 years. During this time, his writing improved and his style became more full, and he also developed some over-arching themes to the stories. So "Polaris" is the modern start to the series, which then produced a book every year or two through 2011, followed by an 8 year gap to the most recent one. If you are not strictly worried about linearity (which is not a huge deal between the two books imo), maybe start with "Polaris" and read "ATfW" later.

The difference between the two books is the difference between a writer's second published novel (ATfW) and one that was nominated for the Nebula (Polaris). So make your judgements accordingly, but most importantly, if you feel the first one does not hang together as well as you'd like, try the second. It'll turn your head.

I was going to post something like that, Robear, but, as usual, you said it better than I could have.

Talent for War is OK - it has some good world building and interesting characters but the story kind of falls apart IMO (not to scare anyone away from reading it, it is still worth a read).

Polaris is much better. Seeker is coming up soon on my "to-read" list.

Thanks, TBoon, although I suspect you sell yourself short. Anyway, good to know I'm not the only one with that conclusion. I like all of them, but my filter for enjoyment is pretty wide these days.