Book Recommendations?

Maverick!

billt721 wrote:

I hope whatever career path you chose for yourself was as awesome as the best selling author that you passed up on.

Trust me, it is.

He's not lying, Bill.

There seems to be a noticeable movement toward highly informal writing in current SF. I think maybe it's just that the people who learned to write online are starting to become novelists, and that has been a very strong influence on how they structure, well, pretty much everything.

I think the first book where I was really aware of the effect was The Martian, by Andy Weir, and I talked about it a bit disapprovingly at the time, but many of the books I've read recently sound quite similar. Will Wight's stuff all sounds like that, Murderbot, Expeditionary Force, and lots of the urban fantasy novels, although it's not quite as strong an effect over there.

In the future, I think readers are going to be able to pick out a fairly strong transition point that started around 2010-ish, and really picked up speed around 2015. If anyone's doing classes that cover this era's SF/fantasy, I'm sure this will be remarked on, probably frequently.

As a counterpoint, that may never happen, as the charred, smoking remnants of human civilization may not have time for such froofroo endeavors.

That's an interesting observation, Malor. Thinking about it, though, Wells' background does not support the idea that she learned to write online. She started writing as a child, for herself, then studied journalism in college (ending with a degree in anthropology) and attended many writing workshops, seminars, convention panels and so forth. She also met many writers in the process and discussed writing with them. Will Wight has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida. Andy Weir seems to provide you with a bit more support for your thesis, but he wrote structured fiction which he posted on his website, not just informal blog posts or the like. He's an engineer but he was consistent in his use of voice both his books I read; he did not shift within a particular section, for example, but held to a visible structure (as do the other two). That, again, suggests training, just not necessarily direct schooling.

So I'm gonna go with creative choice instead of a learned bias. Murderbot, The Martian, and Wight's books (which I have not read, the other two I have) use both first and third person perspectives. That in itself is not informal. My take is that because our society has moved to become more informal, the writing reflects that in its portrayal of thoughts and verbal interactions. And I agree that the Internet has pushed that informality from direct interpersonal interactions to those that are written or even (especially) symbolic, with the inclusion of emoji and memes and recognized tropes as visual shorthand. I just disagree that it's because writers *learned* to write online. I think it's because they are keen observers of social change and changing interactions, and reflect that in their writing.

I wonder if the general trend towards informality reflects the loss of status signals (age, uniforms, titles, accents and so forth) inherent in Internet interactions? That is, people are more likely to speak casually if they are talking with Bob_Ninties_Guy, as opposed to Pastor Robert...

(Definitely agree with you on the smoking ruins comment. It's playing out slowly but surely.)

Robear and Malor, I think you guys are really hitting it on the head with the observations about voice and informal writing. When I write and get into that flow state, it's easy. There's a rhythm to the words and a musicality to the language. When something doesn't fit, it's obvious. I often dislike commenting on here, because the words feel dissonant and harsh in comparison to how I might write them in long-form narrative.

And there's the rub, I think. Murderbot feels like I'm reading a teenager's blog. There's no flow, no rhythm, and no music. Charitably, perhaps this is exactly the effect that Wells is going for, and it simply isn't working for me. Is it aimed at the YA audience, perhaps? It feels...forced?

Interestingly, I've found Will Wight's stuff to be pleasant to read, with a pleasant ebb and flow. The level of language is much the same, and it also skews YA in my mind, but there's no harshness in the writing in my mind.

Does anyone else feel this way about writing? For me, Stephenson's Snow Crash was 90's techno with some VNV Nation in the mix. Strong, steady, sharp beats with occasional interludes. The language grabbed you immediately and kept demanding your attention. In contrast, Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath was the closest thing to a symphony that I've ever read. Absolutely beautiful, with long mellow stretches and occasionally a burst of energy.

Coldstream wrote:

And there's the rub, I think. Murderbot feels like I'm reading a teenager's blog. There's no flow, no rhythm, and no music. Charitably, perhaps this is exactly the effect that Wells is going for, and it simply isn't working for me. Is it aimed at the YA audience, perhaps? It feels...forced?

I see Murderbot's narrative voice as a deliberate part of the characterization. Murderbot is going through adolescence -- just like a blogging teenager, it's figuring out who it is and how to interact with people and what it wants its place in the world to be.

Wow, Coldstream, that's an unexpected view for me. I have no trouble with expository writing; I've done that professionally. But fiction, wow, I really suck at it. I think I try to describe everything at once, and it just destroys the flow every time. I have no idea how to build in rhythm. You want precise, clear descriptions at whatever level of detail is appropriate? I'm your guy. But every time I try to do dialog or incorporate descriptions into a mental monologue, well, the end result is accurate but excruciating.

When I read, the linguistic rhythms and subtleties really have to be strong for me to see them (in unstructured prose). I read for the images, the scenes, the connections between events, the pictures created in my mind. I can't see personal interactions coming until the story exposits them to me. So perhaps I am just missing part of the subtext. One of the reasons I liked "Wolf Hall" was that it does have such a dream-like approach to depicting the world, it's obvious that the language has been put to use in support of that, so I look for it, but others complain that it's *too* obvious in that regard. Maybe I just need that emphatic difference, rather than subtleties. Perhaps that is why I like hard SF, fantasy that reads like history, that sort of thing. Characterization is like a constant mystery, which I can only penetrate through the eyes of the characters themselves.

This probably has to do with the OCD/ADHD view of the world, which is strongly literalist. It's fascinating though to see things I enjoy from another, richer viewpoint. Like finding out you're colorblind.

That said, for me, Murderbot works because, for me, its voice is plausibly the voice of a machine. It's what I expect from something that is not human, but has some internal life at points congruent with ours. And yet it's not ours. It *should* be awkward in some ways, from our perspective, because its base experience of the world is always different from ours. Close enough to be understandable, far enough to be strange. But perhaps missing the music or emotional background that people expect from a human narrator. And that I seem to have trouble picking up on.

My recent reading:

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/m9HABD8.jpg)

Mixed thoughts on Coalescent: some of the story line was interesting, much of it was not.

Mixed thoughts on Dread Brass Shadows and Red Iron Nights. Both books are padded with multiple instances of Garrett going around the city asking questions and not finding answers. Then he returns home and everything happens to him there. Those parts of the books are big time wasters and should have been cut. Old Tin Sorrows was by far the best of these three Garrett books because it left out that nonsense.

Ah, it has been so long since I have read The Mote In God's Eye, it is going to the top of the pile.

Wow, that's a real classic. I don't think I've touched it in at least twenty years. Maybe I should fix that.

With the libraries closed, I've been ordering used books from Amazon or re-reading books I haven't touched in a decade or more. Mote/Gripping, Nightfall, and Earthsea have all been sitting untouched in my library for a long time.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

With the libraries closed, I've been ordering used books from Amazon or re-reading books I haven't touched in a decade or more. Mote/Gripping, Nightfall, and Earthsea have all been sitting untouched in my library for a long time.

Just a reminder for people, with the libraries closed, don't forget most have electronic libraries as well. Ours upped their licensing for media since people couldn't come into the real library.

MannishBoy wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

With the libraries closed, I've been ordering used books from Amazon or re-reading books I haven't touched in a decade or more. Mote/Gripping, Nightfall, and Earthsea have all been sitting untouched in my library for a long time.

Just a reminder for people, with the libraries closed, don't forget most have electronic libraries as well. Ours upped their licensing for media since people couldn't come into the real library.

Yeah, a couple pages back I was asking about the best tools for reading e-books.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
MannishBoy wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

With the libraries closed, I've been ordering used books from Amazon or re-reading books I haven't touched in a decade or more. Mote/Gripping, Nightfall, and Earthsea have all been sitting untouched in my library for a long time.

Just a reminder for people, with the libraries closed, don't forget most have electronic libraries as well. Ours upped their licensing for media since people couldn't come into the real library.

Yeah, a couple pages back I was asking about the best tools for reading e-books.

Depending on your library and your device, that answer probably changes

For instance, Overdrive/Libby has a collection you can read on Kindle if you check it out that way. But they offer those same books and more on epub that can be read on many more e-readers. But if your library doesn't use that service, there are others like Hoopla or RB Digital.

My opinion on the discussion about some current writers and their writing styles, for ex. Murderbot is that these books are mostly the characters talking in their heads or relaying the story in their voices. This type of expression can have a real varied reading style for sure. I enjoy it.

Libby is it. The wait times on new stuff are sometimes awful, but there is so much available.

Cloud Library is great too.

Thanks to an old, barely used iPad, I have started reading e-books instead of placing another order for used books.

7 years ago Tor offered a download of "5 years of stories" and I've been sitting on it ever since. I finally started reading it last night. It's over 4000 pages long.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

7 years ago Tor offered a download of "5 years of stories" and I've been sitting on it ever since.

That just doesn't seem comfortable.

ColdForged wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

7 years ago Tor offered a download of "5 years of stories" and I've been sitting on it ever since.

That just doesn't seem comfortable.

The first 2 years are rough but then you get used to it.

I know that someone posted something about Book 16 ('Peace Talks') of The Dresden Files releasing this year, but according to audible Book 17 ('Battle Ground') is also releasing later this year....

Guess those peace talks didn't go well

1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, is a blast. Deeply intimate, rich, vivid, bizarre, wonderful, intimidating... Great stuff.

Chimalli wrote:

I know that someone posted something about Book 16 ('Peace Talks') of The Dresden Files releasing this year, but according to audible Book 17 ('Battle Ground') is also releasing later this year....

Yep, as he was writing the next book it morphed into two, and both are releasing this year.

interesting, that's cool. Now I need to catch up on that lore

So I just started a new series, "Gaslamp Gothic", by Kat Ross. Enjoying it quite a bit so far.

It's set in New York, in 1888. The protagonist is a 19-year-girl who goes by Harry to her friends; I'm not sure her full name has been used yet, but I assume it's Harriet. Her older sister is a bit famous for being a detective, and Harry is terribly jealous. So, when her sister is away and a new client shows up and mistakes her for her elder, well... she just doesn't bother to correct their misapprehension, and off she goes investigating.

I'm only partway into the first book, and I'm quite enjoying it, because I can't yet tell whether or not it's urban fantasy. The case involves seances and gruesome murders and maybe demons, but maybe not demons, too. People back then really believed in this stuff, and so at this point, there's a very open question: does magic exist? Harry doesn't think so, but her friend John does. They haven't actually argued about anything yet, really, but there's a wee echo of Mulder and Scully there.

I find I'm very much enjoying the period setting, whether or not it turns out to be urban fantasy. The English feels like it's probably a little less period-accurate than, say, Naomi Novik's Her Majesty's Dragon, but it still has that slightly foreign lilt that was so common in older books. (perhaps it's less strong because it's set in the US, and not in Europe?) Not having lived through the period, I have no idea what dialog actually sounded like, but this at least echoes other books set back then.

I may follow up with how well I'm enjoying it as I go (I have the $10 collection of the first four books), but I think I'll be careful not to say whether the world has magic. I'm quite enjoying the uncertainty, and it would be a shame to rob anyone else of the experience. Even if it doesn't have magic, it's interesting virtually walking the streets of NYC in the late 1800s.

Robear wrote:

1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, is a blast. Deeply intimate, rich, vivid, bizarre, wonderful, intimidating... Great stuff.

My lawyer friend: I recently read a Haruki Murakami book. It has lesbian stuff. Yo, D. You like lesbians, right?

Me: ...

(Keep in mind, both of our wives are present)

Friend: it’s the best thing I’ve read this year.

I should say, it also has accounts of abuse of various types, described in conversations but so far not in scenes. That ties into the motivation of several characters. (Bad things happen to abusers in this book.)

Coldstream wrote:

Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath was the closest thing to a symphony that I've ever read. Absolutely beautiful, with long mellow stretches and occasionally a burst of energy.

I totally agree. At times it felt like a fever dream. Especially the interludes. I’ve forgotten a lot about that book and the movie doesn’t do it justice. Could you imagine what it would be like if someone made a film of Grapes if Wrath that tried to capture all of the subtle moods and emotions of the book? It would have to be a somewhat abstract art piece woven between a gritty story of survival. Call David Lynch!

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I just finished the audiobook of The Cuckoo’s Calling. It’s a detective novel written by JK Rawlings under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. It was good, but not great. I think it’s currently a five book series. Not sure if there will be more. From what I’ve read book five might be the finale. The story was interesting enough, but the characters are what made the book enjoyable for me. I will definitely read/listen to the audiobook of book 2, as book one seemed like a lot of world building. Now that the world is firmly established I’m interested to see where the stories go next.

There’s also a TV miniseries, but I typically don’t enjoy films or series of books that I love. A Man Called Ove is one exception that I can think of, but the book is 100 times better.

RawkGWJ wrote:
Coldstream wrote:

Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath was the closest thing to a symphony that I've ever read. Absolutely beautiful, with long mellow stretches and occasionally a burst of energy.

I totally agree. At times it felt like a fever dream. Especially the interludes. I’ve forgotten a lot about that book and the movie doesn’t do it justice. Could you imagine what it would be like if someone made a film of Grapes if Wrath that tried to capture all of the subtle moods and emotions of the book? It would have to be a somewhat abstract art piece woven between a gritty story of survival. Call David Lynch!

It's appalling that I haven't read it, yet. Thank you both for reminding me!

RawkGWJ wrote:

I typically don’t enjoy films or series of books that I love. A Man Called Ove is one exception that I can think of, but the book is 100 times better.

So few movies can even match much less surpass the source material. The last one that did was what...The Martian?