dt.iki.fi

Short Review Diary ‑ Books and other Reading

An incomplete timeline of what I read - mostly contributions to various forum threads

Aug 29 2020-up-

Not technically reading, this is an audiobook:
Scaramouche by Raphael Sabatini
(BTW I heartily recommend this podcast)

It takes place during the French Revolution.
The reader said that they wanted something from that era, with swords & romance, but disliked the usual "swashbuckling" (and misogyny) a lá Three Musketeers.
This novel was written in the early 20th century as I'm only now finding out.
I guess that explains why the language and expression is so easy to comprehend, but a big praise goes out to the reader. He is very good at it. He makes it entertaining, heartfelt.
The depiction of the time of the 1st French Revolution is subtle, nuanced, enlightening, personal.

July 8 2020-up-

Kim Gordon - Girl in a Band

This was gifted to me. It's a better read than I thought it would be.
Perceptive description of relations, but in an easy, direct language.

A typical life story, it starts with the divorce (I didn't even know she'd been married to Thurston Moore for 27 years, basically during the whole existence of Sonic Youth) and then flashes back to her childhood... that's as far as I got so far, but her style makes me want to read more.

PS: The German translation I'm reading seems to concentrate on structurally precise translation instead of readability and feels stilted, but I think I can sense the original through it.

Apr 18 2020-up-

I finally finished Steve Winton's Eyrie.
That writer has got some talent both for lyrical expression and telling an emotional & suspenseful & extraordinary story.
"Bruised revelation" and "disillusionment and salvation" it reads on the cover. Yeah.
Recommended (the book, and I'll surely read more by him).

Dec 31 2019-up-

I'm still reading Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series, 7 books in now.
The 1999 novel had some internet stuff in it, fun to read 20 years later:
Detective1: It's a hyperlink for a web address.
Detective2: What? English please!

I'm also reading Tim Winton's Eyrie which, after a bumpy start, I like more and more. It's not a sad description of a depressed dropout drinking himself to death.

Then I grabbed a friend's book for a moment and was very intrigued by one of Lester Bangs' articles, The White Noise Supremacists - and how much I see the Internet of the 3rd millenium in it. Things haven't really changed all that much in 40 years. Of course this guy was some sort of avantgarde thinker.

Nov 2 2019-up-

Reading Harry Bosch. Four
books into the series, it's still very good. More than just a nod to the
"classics" of L.A. hard-boiled crime fiction, and serioulsy twisted &
evolving plots that well warrant the 400+ pages each book has.

Aug 11 2019-up-

I started listening to Dhalgren as an audiobook.
Utterly amazing.
It seemed to be a contemporary audiobook (ripped from a cassette) with a
very distinctive voice.
Unfortunately the rip was so broken that I had to give it up; but now
I'm somehow fixated on this version and don't want to read it or listen
to another voice...

Aug 4 2019-up-

I was in the woods for real...
did have my smartphone with me though, and read
Summerland
on it.
Almost as good as his Jean le Flambeur Series - and an easier read,
steampunk spy story style.

Then
Radicalized
on real paper.
Definitely an easy read, but warmly recommended nevertheless.
"Unauthorized Bread" says it all. Dystopian visions that are
uncomfortably close to our current lives.

Jun 30 2019-up-

Michal Viewegh - Bliss Was it in
Bohemia

Almost finished now.
For a long time I was put off by the arrogance displayed both by the
writer's main character and the writer himself, but couldn't put the
book down nevertheless.
Now I understand: the detached arrogance and sarcasm are necessary to
present a very painful and claustrophobic topic in a humorous and
entertaining way: the socio-emotional and psychological pressures of
unwillingly living under a totalitarian regime.
I also happen to know that his descriptions are realistic; he just has a
way of pointing out the abstruse in it.

I was told that the title of the book is untranslatable.
In any case "Bliss Was it in Bohemia" is total crap.
The word-correct translation would be "Wonderful Years Under the Dog"
I read it in German, they made it "Wonderful Years for Dogs" - not
precise either.
Also in the text there's lots of details where you sense that the
translator was struggling to translate a play on words without using any
extra meaning. Nevertheless enjoyable. A fun book about a difficult
topic.

May 27 2019-up-

Glad you're enjoying le Guin.
you recapitulations bring back memories... in retrospect The
Dispossessed left the greatest impact, maybe because it was the last one
I read, in at least two attempts, because it wasn't an easy read for
me.
But the description of a colonisation of a planet without infinite
resources, without interstellar war but the constant fight for
breathable air, water, food - yet it's all about moral, not survival -
deep, serious, fascinating.

You might also like the Earthsea animated film, and possibly the novels
too though they're definitely fantasy, not sci-fi.

May 17 2019-up-

Haven't you known Ursula K. Le Guin before?
I must have read ALL her novels,what, a decade ago (before I started
watching too many films on my computer) - both fantasy and sci-fi. (I
think the Earthsea novels also exist as an animated film.)
I always liked the social part of Sci-fi (because the development of a
society and human interaction in the future is a science, too) and
surely enjoyed her way.
BUT all her sci-fi novels are based on the idea that aliens are
basically human, too.
Even though this fact is well explained in her alternate history, it's
still a bit of a stretch for me.
But then again, the same could be said for most sci-fi...

Mar 15 2019-up-

the potter book series was much more entwined with the films iirc.
anyhow i did read at least one book before the first film even came
out.
at that time it was a wonderful coming together of kids, teenagers and
adults all reading & loving the same books.

LOTR I read at least twice before the first films even came out.
One of the first books I bought myself, three grass green paperback
volumes.
I have also watched the films several times by now, but i guess i should
read the books again.
btw i heard tolkien was inspired by finnish language in general, and
when he created the elvish language, so one thing in common with
rajaniemi.

still reading the fractal prince... i'm slow... just for lulz, there's
an even funnier sauna scene there (in finland it's common to go out to
roll in the snow or even swim in icy water when you get enough steam -
in an oortian sauna this is replaced by hard vacuum - the dark man's
kiss)!
but that's just a detail; i fully agree with twoion's critique.

Feb 18 2019-up-

So far I like the sequel, too (The Fractal Prince). Even better in some
ways... but I'm not through yet.

Hannu Rajaniemi (Finnish guy)!

yep. the book is oroginally written in English though.
I like how he inserts finnish symbolic names, and how certain aspects of
finnish culture & mentality have been translated to inhabitants of the
oort cloud... :D

Very entertaining sci-fi setting which will rustle your imagination.
Action, some really well-written passages...

i'd like to point out the concept of the gentleman thief. apparently the
blue print is some french novel character named Arséne Lupin, but i
haven't read that so cannot say how far the parallels go.
This reminds me of another sci-fi
novel
that is modeled after the
story of the count of monte cristo.

Jan 26 2019-up-

After leaving you hanging for almost half a year, I can finally report
on having read all books in the trilogy: The Three-Body Problem, The
Dark Forest, and Death's End.

The books are getting gradually better and the third one is a real
treat to read.

thanks for getting back.
the mere fact that you hung on to read all of them speaks for it i
guess...
i will give it another try eventually.
_________________________

Before christmas I read
Jo Walton - Among
Others
.
I'm not sure how much I liked it, but it's worth a read for its
extraordinariness and weirdness.
It's full of names of 1960s/70s scifi & fantasy authors & novels; I
wrote most of them down and am researching them now.
Names like Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany, John Brunner, Robert
Silverberg, Josephine Tey... Currently listening to Babel 17 as
audiobook (very low quality, probably ripped from an old cassette).
_________________________

Now reading
Hannu Rajaniemei - The Quantum
Thief

very nice!
quote me from elsewhere:

A surprise find.
Said to be "hard" sci-fi. Idk, but it's a wonderful story.
Next-dimension internet and quantum technology are interwoven into
people's physical lives, and that's also an essential part of the
plot.
Example: people intuitively adjust how much of their lives they show
to others. Passers-by are often only shadows, shrouded in privacy.
Everything that happens is recorded in "Exomemory".
You don't tell someone where the bus station is, you share a co-memory
with them.
People have "smartskin".
The story: a heist (and a conspiracy revealed). What do you steal in
times like this? Information, time.
I am almost 3/4 through, I hope my praise isn't too early.
It's a trilogy, so two more books to come.

Aug 22 2018-up-

the translation of the Chinese original feels completely different
while reading; while the story and concepts are interesting, the style
lacks what I would call literary craftsmanship and appears completely
'flat', without any decorum or elaborate use of words. I don't know
whether that's a property of modern Chinese literature altogether, but
who knows, I can't read Chinese…

Then there is the actual structure of the book: Across several
chapters, an arc with actual characters doing things is built up, just
to end in some kind of scientific Q&A session where one party
elaborates on some neat science concept and a counterparty interjects
and is the one 'being taught a lesson', completely breaking up any
character or plot development. This might actually be a Chinese
literary instrument, but who knows. Overall, it's like the sci-fi
content is delivered in chunks between chapters where the plot
actually moves. Particularly the last third of book I and the first
chapters of book II suffered from this kind of delivery style; I'm on
page 120 of book II now and it's become much more delectable to read.

i fully agree on all points.
i am listening to the audiobook, in english, and got finally exasperated
a few chapters into the second part.
this is boring.
in my mind, i dubbed it "nerd fiction".
i doubt i will pick it up again, but i'm waiting for your report!

i was thinking it was a trilogy; if it isn't this would be one more
reason to NOT pick it up again.
i like a long story, but i hate an endlessly drawn out saga...

additionally (to what you said) there's some "romance" woven into the
book, but it feels just as propped on as the (pseudo?)scientific
explanations:

mildly depressed science guy falls in love with ethereal, improbably
"perfect" girl...

this actually happens again (?) in the third part, which i accidentally
started reading first.
it feels like a prop from a different genre (just like the grumpy cop
that pops up every now and then) - a cliché.

BUT, it's really interesting to get some insight into chinese politics &
history & culture & how people there think nowadays.

Aug 14 2018-up-

Män som hatar
kvinnor
.
Probably I read it already, and definitely watched both film adaptations
(first the swedish, then the slightly less, but still good,
hollywood), but it's been a while and it's a really fine story.

Jul 31 2018-up-

I've been out and about in the finnish wilderness for two weeks, and
decided to not take any books with me, rely on my phone as an ebook
reader instead. It definitely reduces baggage, has the additional
benefit of not needing a flashlight when reading at night.
though without a solar charger (i got a cheap
one

just before leaving, but it doesn't work) it's difficult.

anyhow:

Helene Wecker - The Golem and the
Jinni

two creatures from different mythologies meet in new york in 1900, and
besides a complex mystery, a complicated love story develops.
there's much more to it than that. just read it.

May 23 2018-up-

if someone told me "here's a really good book about the zombie
apocalypse, featuring a manga-style century-old eternally teenage girl",
i wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot selfie stick. if they told me after
that "actually really it's the vampire apocalypse", that wouldn't help
either.
it's a good thing i picked up Justin Cronin - The
Passage

on a whim and without knowing what it is.
the story spans centuries and goes beyond the north american continent,
and it never focuses on gore or suspense, but always on people.
not the typical action-hero-have-to-save-humanity type either.

shortly, it's a well written scifi/fantasy novel, don't be put off by
the vampire apocalypse framework. the author is deliberately avoiding
the apocalyptic mega-action anyhow, it's all about the small stories
that develop in between, and the big, long, encompassing story.

Jan 14 2018-up-

The Expanse

I haven't been reading anything else in the past couple of months or
so!
Just finished Cibola Burn yesterday and continued straight to the next,
Nemesis Games.

Just finished Revenger by Alastair Reynolds...An outrageously good
read, highly recommended.

Hard science-fiction novel I read?

The science definitely doesn't get in the way of the fiction.
Although in the first book i read by him (not his first book), some
weird time/space distortion was an integral part of the storyline. not
that i could tell, not being a space physicist, but it's good to know
that it all adds up scientifically.
Beautiful stories. Not always a page turner but deeply fascinating.

Nov 23 2017-up-

I've finished books I, II & III of The Expanse series and found
them quite entertaining;

i am now well into the third book, and i love it.
yes, entertainment, but high quality ... (and this is where i always
fail to be a critic; i just like the books, that's partly personal,
partly because they're well written - they avoid certain traps and
never leave the bad aftertaste of having been sold the cheap stuff)

Sep 2 2017-up-

the "landscape" descriptions in Solaris (book) are amazing, and no movie
can recreate this no matter how many hollywood dollars & clooneys you
throw at it!

Jul 30 2017-up-

... is "THE Science Fiction Writer" as far as I'm concerned.

well, for me Stanisław
Lem
was the first,
and still unparalleled in many respects...

have you ever been annoyed by how aliens (in sf novels) always happen to
be similar to something we humans are familiar with? mostly human (two
legs, two arms, a face with mouth and nose and eyes...), sometimes
reptilian, insect... you know this sorry parade if you read/watch too
much SF like me.

That's why i've always been preaching the importance of a novel like
Eden. Not because
of its outcome, but because of the author's incredible imagination, and
complete willingness and devotedness to create and describe something
really alien.

Anyhow, it's been a while since I read the book, but recently I found it
on a book exchange shelf, and a nice east german issue at that!

http://dt.iki.fi/stuff/lem-eden.jpg

The five heroes don't even have names, they're just "The Chemist", "The
Doctor", "The Coordinator" etc.
It's all about trying to describe things as objectively as possible; but
comparison with something familiar always creeps in, morals, ethics, of
a human world.
Despite the attempted objectiveness, the descriptions are lush,
colourful, exciting.
It's also about the crew's struggle to comprehend what they are seeing,
and keep they're inappropriate human reactions at bay.

Just read it.

May 5 2017-up-

Start with the Death novels (because it's hilarious). Here is a
handy
guide.

thanks! i'd also received
advice
elsewhere.
for now t. pratchett is on hold again because of
this. not my first
a.reynolds novel, and certainly not my last!
but the advice is much appreciated, i will get there evtl.

the expanse: seen the mini series and much enjoyed it. iirc, it had this
wild west charm? popcorn scifi, yeah.

dune: just recently i got reminded of this again. some people (nerds)
use dune references like it was the lord of the rings of scifi (username
spice baron etc.). have to read the book someday.

Apr 2 2017-up-

For some reason, I haven't read almost any Terry Pratchett in my Life,
so far.
But this book
got me much more interested.

But since his output is so vast, any recommendations on how to tackle
it, keeping the storylines in order etc.?

Mar 31 2017-up-

If you're interested in manga (I haven't read much), some novel-style
and -quality works are: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (the
full-length work has about 80% story than the animation movie and is
IMO much better, the movie is crap in comparison).

i agree.
there's much more in the manga, the characters are padded slightly
differently, and the visual quality, the organic strangeness of it all,
works well even in b/w 2D.
i read it before seeing the movie, and remember being slightly
disappointed.
not that i don't have a lot of appreciation for ALL of hayao miyazaki's
work.

Mar 22 2017-up-

The only issue I have is that the depiction of women is a bit
derogatory to me. Though this could be just for the narrative, and
plot...

for the plot?
anyhow, very common for older sci-fi stuff, but thankfully dying out.
although probably slower than in other sectors.
and sci-fi still seems to be mostly for boys... but i'm ok with that.

currently reading pratchett/baxter: the long
war
- and they
took a weird kind of compromise:
a dead nun gets resurrected inside an android, but whoever created the
android made the boobs too large. she protests ("whoever did this, could
you please tone it down a little?") - but still, from now on they can
use it as a running gag throughout the book (sexy nun!) - but not for
the plot, i dearly hope.
i wish they wouldn't have felt the need for that compromise between
sexism and gender correctness.

Jan 20 2017-up-

a casual jump from early 20th century russian literature to historical
novel (early soviet union! very interesting!) to science fiction
bordering on pulp fiction - and I'm not even one third into the [Ice
Trilogy](http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/ice-trilogy-by-vladimir-sorokin-trans-jamey-gambrell-2264696.html)
yet...
o

Aug 4 2016-up-

i was reading gwyneth jones's "bold as
love"
until a
day ago.
it definitely has its charms, esp. when you're out camping with fellow
travelers.
i can't really put a genre on it, it has sci-fi, fanatasy, alternative
history and plain socio-critical novel in it. it's DEFINITELY worth a
read. but there's no climax as far as i can see.

now i started reading bryan aldiss'
"non-stop"
. a
classic of sci-fi, i am told. great story, a little too wild-west-like
for my taste (a group of rough men, thrown together by fate rather than
by choice), but i appreciate the depth of vision, so far (about one
third in). a friend of mine was amazed when i said it's from the
fifties, and so am i.

http://dt.iki.fi/user/pages/01.blog/what-am-i-reading/aldiss-jones.t.jpg

Feb 26 2016-up-

In the book they talk about Roman artifacts being buried by dirt and
debris over time. Kind of fascinating when you think about it.

that's actually one of my favorite fun facts i like to tell when they
ask me what's the difference between life in finland and central europe:
history.
köln, my birth city, is founded by the romans. nowadays, the street
level is 12m (iirc) higher than it was 2000 years ago, which means that
the present city is built on 12m of trash and rubble throughout
history.
and the museum i talked about is about the only place in finland where
you can find that sort of history; used to be the capital when the
swedes took it.
the rest of finland is mostly wood (in every sense) and that just
doesn't preserve in the same way.

Feb 8 2016-up-

I was just a bit concerned, considering your posts a few months ago
about your state of unemployment.

i try not to be smug about it, but it's less of a problem in most
european countries, compared to the US of A.
i mean, people still don't want to be unemployed, and maybe you'd have
to sell your beamer and eventually also your house, but it's releaving
to know that there's some significant social security in place.

Dec 15 2015-up-

Douglas Adams - The long dark Tea-time of the Soul

i remember casting it aside many years ago, because it isn't
hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy.
now i find it surprisingly funny and entertaining.
perfect literature for commuting. people are probably wondering what
makes me chuckle & giggle half of the journey - then they see the
author's name, and i get some knowing & friendly glances. :)

Nov 11 2015-up-

I felt i had to jump to the rescue for a. reynolds. i think he's the
only active writer even remotely able to fill the gap that iain banks
left behind, god rest his soul.
if you ever happen to read an iain m. banks novel, i'd be interested to
hear your opinion.

about the term "science fiction" - i think it's a relic from the 50s
when these type of movies & novels were mostly about futuristic
technology, but since they almost inevitably ended up in space, it's
become a term for that, too.
yes, the larger part is probably fantasy, but i like the prerogative of
"alien": try to imagine something that has nothing to do with what
exists on planet earth or in human minds... and space travel, which
presumes advanced technology and thus, at least for humans, the
future.

Nov 10 2015-up-

"Pushing Ice" by Alistair Reynolds...so disappointing.. (painfully
long ) journey ... The book is just completely...utterly dull.

I'll give you this:
Alastair Reynolds is not the best creator of suspense.

his characters aren't so polished, but very real and complex, imo.
some people might perceive this as flawed.

in all other points, i disagree.

there's huge vision in this book, a story created that is so far out
from everything one might be experiencing in our day & age, yet so
accomplished, both dramatically and science-fictionally.

i esp. enjoyed the "fractal zoom effect", when they think they found
the aliens, and they turn out to be just a tiny part in an incredibly
larger scheme...

Oct 29 2015-up-

anyhow, i remembered at least one more:

Gwyneth Jones: Spirit or The Princess of Bois Dormant

that was abso-effing-lutely crazy fantastic.

I've been reading a few Alastair Reynolds books as well. I gotta say
I'm not a HUGE fan of some of his writing style... Pushing Ice is a
bit odd... but I like how he incorporates specks of "hard" science
into the stories.

i love it when authors have the vision to totally drown themselves in
the worlds they create (hmmm, that came out wrong...) whilst still
remaining - hmmm again - "credible"?
i haven't seen that anywhere but in franz kafka, or the lord of the
rings, but it seems that the genre sci-fi most generously lends itself
to it.
i do like the science, too. have you ever read how iain m. banks
describes a spaceship? :o
have you read stanislaw lem's eden? how he describes how utterly alien
aliens are. how lost the human astronauts are with their
preconceptions.