Book Recommendations?

Of course, no less a luminary than Raymond Chandler critiqued the classic British whodunnit in his amazing essay The Simple Art of Murder, and I'll quote the relevant passage below:

"There are much better plots by these same writers and by others of their school. There may be one somewhere that would really stand up under close scrutiny. It would be fun to read it, even if I did have to go back to page 47 and refresh my memory about exactly what time the second gardener potted the prize-winning tea-rose begonia. There is nothing new about these stories and nothing old. The ones I mentioned are all English only because the authorities (such as they are) seem to feel the English writers had an edge in this dreary routine, and that the Americans, (even the creator of Philo Vance–probably the most asinine character in detective fiction) only made the Junior Varsity.

This, the classic detective story, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. It is the story you will find almost any week in the big shiny magazines, handsomely illustrated, and paying due deference to virginal love and the right kind of luxury goods. Perhaps the tempo has become a trifle faster, and the dialogue a little more glib. There are more frozen daiquiris and stingers ordered, and fewer glasses of crusty old port; more clothes by Vogue, and décors by the House Beautiful, more chic, but not more truth. We spend more time in Miami hotels and Cape Cod summer colonies and go not so often down by the old gray sundial in the Elizabethan garden. But fundamentally it is the same careful grouping of suspects, the same utterly incomprehensible trick of how somebody stabbed Mrs. Pottington Postlethwaite III with the solid platinum poignard just as she flatted on the top note of the Bell Song from Lakmé in the presence of fifteen ill-assorted guests; the same ingenue in fur-trimmed pajamas screaming in the night to make the company pop in and out of doors and ball up the timetable; the same moody silence next day as they sit around sipping Singapore slings and sneering at each other, while the flat-feet crawl to and fro under the Persian rugs, with their derby hats on.

Personally I like the English style better. It is not quite so brittle, and the people as a rule, just wear clothes and drink drinks. There is more sense of background, as if Cheesecake Manor really existed all around and not just the part the camera sees; there are more long walks over the Downs and the characters don’t all try to behave as if they had just been tested by MGM. The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers."

So I checked out the Nebulas, and have been slogging my way through the Caine Riordan books as a consequence. I'm really mixed on these; they're super-military SF, way gung-ho, rah-rah humans are the best, but they're tempered with some actual intelligence. I think I would like them a lot better if they were shorter. There's a lot of detail here I don't really care about, and the characters don't feel very real to me. But there's enough interesting ideas scattered throughout that I keep plugging away.... I suppose they're worth reading, but god, it's taking a long time to finish.

I don't really understand how these are getting Nebula nominations. The only reason I can see for it is because they're in the oldschool SF vein, with lots of soldiers and blowing things up. They're reasonably entertaining, but the consistent nods feel like an agenda. These are more or less right-wing popcorn books, comfort food for the conservative, and don't, IMO, belong on the Nebula list. Yet, every book makes the cut, which seems weird to me.

Are the Puppies still active?

The Nebulas are awarded by authors to authors, so one can't just organize an Internet mob like with the Hugos.

Yet, for all that, not one of these books has rated a win, not even close, but every one of them gets nominated. The tone reminds me a great deal of The Mote in God's Eye, which I also just re-read. Mote was extremely sexist and conservative, and while the Riordan books have tuned it way down, their overall tone is very, very similar. They're also much less interesting than Mote was, IMO.

Just... not Nebula material. None of these books are great, only decent.

Does anyone have any good horror novel recommendations? I’m in the mood for something scary, my favourites are probably Clive Barker and M.R James and really enjoyed the Lovecraft Country if that helps? Thank you!

bbk1980 wrote:

I have just finished Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie. It was fantastic, I ignored Agatha Christie for years as I went through an insufferable snob period where the only detective fiction I read was Sherlock Holmes. Christie has a wonderful writing style that is very easy to relax into and her plots are so tight. The usual warnings of attitudes of the time have to be applied unfortunately.

I've mentioned here or in another thread, I'm currently reading through the Poirot books. Recently finished Dumb Witness and I'm currently reading Appointment with Death. I skipped Death on the Nile because of the movie coming out soon (?).

Romancing the Runoff is raising funds for the GA runoff. Lots of stuff to bid on (including a signed copy of Neverwhere that’s at over 4K so WAY out of my dreams). There’s also an opportunity to play Among Us with a number of people....two of the options include playing with N K Jemisin.
(Those are also already out of my price range, so I’m okay publicizing them. They had signed Murderbot books as Buy It now, but they were gone before I could).

Malor wrote:

The Nebulas are awarded by authors to authors, so one can't just organize an Internet mob like with the Hugos.

Yet, for all that, not one of these books has rated a win, not even close, but every one of them gets nominated. The tone reminds me a great deal of The Mote in God's Eye, which I also just re-read. Mote was extremely sexist and conservative, and while the Riordan books have tuned it way down, their overall tone is very, very similar. They're also much less interesting than Mote was, IMO.

Just... not Nebula material. None of these books are great, only decent.

If not the Puppies then it still seems like *something* is going on there.

To be fair, they are more interesting than most military-style SF. I'd call them a little better than the Honor Harrington series, which definitely does have its fans, but.... none of this is exactly literature. Compare them with something like, say, A Fire Upon The Deep, and they come out looking like absolute garbage.

I went and checked his Amazon bio and Wikipedia page, and I see no sign that Mr. Gannon was ever in the military, yet he strongly professes expertise in writing fiction about it. He calls it hard SF, but it's definitely fantasy when it comes to characterizing servicepeople.

The first term that came to mind was extremely crude, so I'll rephrase and say he's very enthusiastic about the great qualities of soldiers.

He has not been in the military, but he's worked in military and intel environments for much of his career. I would not discount that (although I have not read his work). Also, I've found that "servicepeople" vary wildly. Working with SOCOM elements is very different from working with Marines or NG or Army Materiel Command folks. Like, completely different worlds. (This is from personal experience.)

I read his resume as his having consulting and think tank experience, at a minimum. It's an interesting background, but I'm not yet tempted to try out his books.

Anyway, if we required relevant experience from SF writers, there'd be no hard SF lol. There are many ways to learn, and doing is just one of them. John Keegan, who wrote one of the most respected books on the experience of combat, was never in the military, yet his perceptions on the personal experience and effects of combat are widely regards as valuable.

I finished "The Midnight Library" by Matt Haig yesterday and enjoyed it quite a bit. It's about a woman who commits suicide and before passing away gets a chance to see all the different parallel universes showing her how her life could have turned out if she had chosen different paths. While reading, it reminded me a lot of "Replay" (Ken Grimwood) and "The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August" (Claire North), but it is different enough to be worth reading if you enjoyed the last two.

"The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue" by V.E. Schwab is next on my list. I wanted to read "Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare and Scottish Adventure Like No Other" by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish* first, but I've been told that the audiobook is simply too brilliant to "just" read it. So, I'll get that for my daily commute.

* They play Jamie Fraser and Dougal MacKenzie in Outlander

I read his resume as his having consulting and think tank experience, at a minimum. It's an interesting background, but I'm not yet tempted to try out his books.

I'm coming across as more negative about them than I actually am, because they really are decent, markedly better than most military SF.

They're just... not Nebula material, IMO. If I'd just stumbled into these without the nomination, I would have thought they were okay, and largely forgotten them within a year.

One Hundred Years of Solitude complete! Reading this so soon after Don Quixote was interesting as you can feel some parallels, but aside from a couple of bitingly emotional moments I think my overwhelming feeling once I put it down was... bemused maybe? I’m quite surprised that I ended up with such a mild reaction as I’m a big fan of surrealism but I think I’m missing too much historical context to have really latched on to the cultural bedrock that it’s so deeply rooted in. It’s inspired a fair bit of research into modern Latin American history which is (of course) pretty horrific in the usual colonial ways, but I have no strong desire to revisit Macondo even with the extra background.

One important note is the sheer density of the prose... I think it must have taken me about three times the time I expected it to take to get through 400 pages. So much is jammed into each sentence and there are so many people and relationships to keep track of! Another one I’m glad I got around to but I’m sad I didn’t like it as much as I feel it deserves. Onto Gatsby for a nice palate cleanser!

DC Malleus wrote:

One Hundred Years of Solitude complete! Reading this so soon after Don Quixote was interesting as you can feel some parallels, but aside from a couple of bitingly emotional moments I think my overwhelming feeling once I put it down was... bemused maybe? I’m quite surprised that I ended up with such a mild reaction as I’m a big fan of surrealism but I think I’m missing too much historical context to have really latched on to the cultural bedrock that it’s so deeply rooted in. It’s inspired a fair bit of research into modern Latin American history which is (of course) pretty horrific in the usual colonial ways, but I have no strong desire to revisit Macondo even with the extra background.

One important note is the sheer density of the prose... I think it must have taken me about three times the time I expected it to take to get through 400 pages. So much is jammed into each sentence and there are so many people and relationships to keep track of! Another one I’m glad I got around to but I’m sad I didn’t like it as much as I feel it deserves. Onto Gatsby for a nice palate cleanser!

I've read (and enjoyed) Don Quixote twice, but I could not make it through One Hundred Years of Solitude. I gave up halfway through, and felt bad about myself because it's such a classic. Maybe I'll try again in the future...

I finished Forged - Alex Verus #11 I had started to really sour and waver on the series, but the last book was an improvement so I stuck in there for this one. This book was insanely action packed and overall enjoyable. Wraps up a couple major plot points that have been hanging around for a long time but not everything. Finishing it makes me want to re-read the entire series, but the memories of the bleh reaction that something like books 5-9 left me with makes me reconsider.

Clumber wrote:

I finished Forged - Alex Verus #11 I had started to really sour and waver on the series, but the last book was an improvement so I stuck in there for this one. This book was insanely action packed and overall enjoyable. Wraps up a couple major plot points that have been hanging around for a long time but not everything. Finishing it makes me want to re-read the entire series, but the memories of the bleh reaction that something like books 5-9 left me with makes me reconsider.

I just got this audiobook from the library. Can't wait to get to it. Just started Words of Radiance, so it will be a minute as that's a lot of audio to get through, even at 2x+ playback speed.

I'm still working on getting through Don Quixote. I fell off the bandwagon pretty quickly in my intention to read no other fiction before I was done with it in order to get through, and I'm still reading only bits and pieces of it here and there.

I think I'm going to make a new goal to have it done by the end of the year.

When I was done with One Hundred Years of Solitude this past summer, I texted my son (who recommended it to me) "Garcí­a-Márquez was either insane or brilliant, I don't know which".

Of course, he was brilliant and I am a dolt.

Having some knowledge of Latin American history helped me get through, somewhat. At a point about a third of the way through, I started reading this like I would a book by Umberto Eco or Gene Wolfe - not worrying too much about the details and just letting the prose wash over me.

It has stuck with me and I want to do a re-read soon.

Marlon James is just as dense and (imo) more relevant than Marquez. His books are amazing but they can be violent and brutal. If you make it out of the first chapter of "A Brief History of Seven Killings", you're in for a wild ride through modern Jamaican social history. (I'll just say it's likely to trigger *anyone* and leave it at that.) Likewise, "Black Leopard" is the most rich fantasy to deal with Africa in years (and that's not saying that the others in the current resurgence are in any way flawed). James is amazing.

bekkilyn wrote:

I'm still working on getting through Don Quixote. I fell off the bandwagon pretty quickly in my intention to read no other fiction before I was done with it in order to get through, and I'm still reading only bits and pieces of it here and there.

I think I'm going to make a new goal to have it done by the end of the year.

I'll be lucky to have finished Book One by January. Not Cervantes's fault....mine.

Mario_Alba wrote:
DC Malleus wrote:

One Hundred Years of Solitude complete! Reading this so soon after Don Quixote was interesting as you can feel some parallels, but aside from a couple of bitingly emotional moments I think my overwhelming feeling once I put it down was... bemused maybe? I’m quite surprised that I ended up with such a mild reaction as I’m a big fan of surrealism but I think I’m missing too much historical context to have really latched on to the cultural bedrock that it’s so deeply rooted in. It’s inspired a fair bit of research into modern Latin American history which is (of course) pretty horrific in the usual colonial ways, but I have no strong desire to revisit Macondo even with the extra background.

One important note is the sheer density of the prose... I think it must have taken me about three times the time I expected it to take to get through 400 pages. So much is jammed into each sentence and there are so many people and relationships to keep track of! Another one I’m glad I got around to but I’m sad I didn’t like it as much as I feel it deserves. Onto Gatsby for a nice palate cleanser!

I've read (and enjoyed) Don Quixote twice, but I could not make it through One Hundred Years of Solitude. I gave up halfway through, and felt bad about myself because it's such a classic. Maybe I'll try again in the future...

What's odd is that I absolutely adored 1OOY but did not like Love in the Time of Cholera at all. It felt like Garcia Marquez was mocking his own style. I really need to read some of his other novels and short stories to get a better sense of him as an author.

Reading Bertrand Russells's The History of Western Philosophy requires a lap kitty to pet. It's neat to follow the causitive threads of mysticism, analysis, cosmology, ethics, and political theory as they careen through the centuries like a slow motion car crash.

Russell is very up front with his bias: He is pro liberalism. Russell prefers Athens over Sparta, Empiricism over Romanticism, Locke over Rousseau. Nietzche is The Devil. Still, even the preferred thinkers will have their arguments efficiently eviscerated with a dry wit worthy of a Stephen Fry delivery, and the villains will get a tip of the hat when they make a solid argument. Until Bergson. Bergson gets ripped to shreds for a chapter.

Personally I consider this bias mitigated by Russell's overt admission of it, my own inability to imagine an unbiased author, and it's pretty obvious that Russell isn't trying to prove his own position. If it were possible to justify liberalism with a mathematical proof a mile long, starting from the abstract notion of sets, he'd have done it. Some things you just have to pick your side, ain't no proving. Published in '45, by the way, and he's British.

A little daunting in scope (the book summary usually found on the back of a book is here printed on the spine!) but ultimately pretty easy to read. Occasionally I questioned historical accuracy. Takes on Sparta and Dante seemed off to me, but in inconsequential ways. Other historical points I spot checked cohered with the modern take, but of course I didn't check everything because it would take a decade.

Question: How come we always learn history forwards? What would be wrong with a format where you start at the present (or wherever makes sense) and keep asking the question, 'okay but where did they get that idea?', working backwards to the origin of a topic? Seems like it could be functional for lots of contexts.

Russell's take on evaluating philosophers wrote:

There is, however, a more general argument against reverence, whether for the Greeks or for anyone else. In studying a philosopher, the right attitude is neither reverence nor contempt, but first a kind of hypothetical sympathy, until it is possible to know what it feels like to believe in his theories, and only then a revival of the critical attitude, which should resemble, as far as possible, the state of mind of a person abandoning opinions which he has hitherto held. Contempt interferes with the first part of this process, and reverence with the second. Two things are to be remembered: that a man whose opinions and theories are worth studying may be presumed to have had some intelligence, but that no man is likely to have arrived at complete and final truth on any subject whatever. When an intelligent man expresses a view which seems to us obviously absurd, we should not attempt to prove that it is somehow true, but we should try to understand how it ever came to seem true. This exercise of historical and psychological imagination at once enlarges the scope of our thinking, and helps us to realize how foolish many of our own cherished prejudices will seem to an age which has a different temper of mind.

This goal of intellectual honesty was maintained throughout, and in a few cases where Russell could not determine what a philosopher was trying to say, he'd just fess up.

Would recommend to Robears. Pairs well with Disco Elysium.

My philosophy professor drew this distinction in various ways, encouraging us to be able to make both sides of an argument cogently. That meant *understanding* where the ideas you disagree with came from, what they meant to a person as well as in the real world (the latter being more important, the former perhaps more influential in society even if objectively incorrect). My favorite dictum of his refers to the combination of an argument’s structure and the maker’s bias: “Never mistake *good* logic for *correct* logic”. Might be the single most important thing I learned in college, and has benefited me immensely in my career as well as in my social life. (It lets me know which of my friends are capable of applying evidence to their ideas, and which tend to let their bias confirm their ideas and run with that.)

Russell was one of the lodestars of my training, but mostly indirectly. I need to read more of his stuff, definitely. I was interested in Philosophy of science and mathematics, stuff that could be applied in various was, with falsifiability a requirement. I know some folks are still trained that philosophical hypotheses are not falsifiable, but that’s living in the past. There is a thriving world of what you might call applied philosophy, that aims to usefully point to areas of investigation in various fields, and to functionally delineate what ideas can currently be taken to be on a solid footing, and what are not (or no longer), and to define the tools that allow us to do that. Great stuff.

Unfortunately that career was cut off before it could continue, but I still maintain an interest.

Russell's Teapot is still one of my most-used ways to illustrate burden of proof to morons.

The importance of being idle by Russell is one of my favourite essays.

bbk1980 wrote:

Does anyone have any good horror novel recommendations? I’m in the mood for something scary, my favourites are probably Clive Barker and M.R James and really enjoyed the Lovecraft Country if that helps? Thank you!

I haven't found anything scary of late. House of Leaves was recommended to me but I haven't started it. I liked Doctor Sleep but it wasn't scary. The last book to scare me was 1984 but probably not the way you want to be scared. I also thought Uzumaki was scary but it is manga. Its about spirals and how they rip apart your soul until you go insane in a spinning spiral down to hell only to realize you have always been in hell.

There was a dean koontz book I thought was good but I forgot the name of it. Also I read it when I was kid so many it was crap because my tastes were questionable back then. The book was a kid that got super powers. Throughout the book he gets more and more powers. No reason is given to why he is getting powers but he is using them for evil. Some normal people in his orbit ban together to try and stop the evil god like kid.

Baron Of Hell wrote:
bbk1980 wrote:

Does anyone have any good horror novel recommendations? I’m in the mood for something scary, my favourites are probably Clive Barker and M.R James and really enjoyed the Lovecraft Country if that helps? Thank you!

I haven't found anything scary of late. House of Leaves was recommended to me but I haven't started it. I liked Doctor Sleep but it wasn't scary. The last book to scare me was 1984 but probably not the way you want to be scared. I also thought Uzumaki was scary but it is manga. Its about spirals and how they rip apart your soul until you go insane in a spinning spiral down to hell only to realize you have always been in hell.

There was a dean koontz book I thought was good but I forgot the name of it. Also I read it when I was kid so many it was crap because my tastes were questionable back then. The book was a kid that got super powers. Throughout the book he gets more and more powers. No reason is given to why he is getting powers but he is using them for evil. Some normal people in his orbit ban together to try and stop the evil god like kid.

I don't know how well it stands up but the Lincoln Tunnel scene from "The Stand" (and subsequent images my refusing to fall asleep mind was more than willing to conjure up) was probably the most terrifying thing I've ever read.

bbk1980 wrote:

Does anyone have any good horror novel recommendations? I’m in the mood for something scary, my favourites are probably Clive Barker and M.R James and really enjoyed the Lovecraft Country if that helps? Thank you!

Sorry, I glossed past your post until Baron replied to it.

I'm not really a horror reader, but Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons is always my go-to recommendation in that genre.

Falling Angel, by William Hjortsberg, is a noir horror story. I found it scary, in the accumulating creepy sense. If you have not heard of it, don’t google the story. Just read it.

Thanks for all the recommendations I am going to go for Falling Angel, I have been on a bit of a philosophy kick and need something to relax the mind. As an aside Schopenhauer is hard work, I might be giving up...

Just skip straight to Frege and Peirce.