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el dang

Joined 2 years ago


I'm currently the coordinator of the #SFFBookClub so a lot of what I'm reading is suggestions from there.

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Don Quixote (2003, Penguin Putnam) 2 stars

Don Quixote has become so entranced by reading chivalric romances that he determines to become …

Starts delightful, gets repetitive

2 stars

I started reading this with a group of friends, taking turns to read chapters aloud. For the first 5-10 chapters I was enthralled, finding it an utterly charming satire of essentially the same genre that Monty Python and the Holy Grail sends up. But after that it felt like it kept repeating the same jokes, and started to wear thin enough that I didn't actually finish it.

The Accidental Alchemist 3 stars

When Zoe Faust--herbalist, alchemist, and recent transplant to Portland, Oregon--begins unpacking her bags, she can't …

Fun, albeit flawed

3 stars

This was a fun light read, engaging enough to get me turning the pages and worrying that one of the characters I liked would turn out to be the culprit. But it was also sort of formulaic, and could really have done with an editor. The love interest was telegraphed about 15 times before the narrator admitted it, and several important details seemed to be introduced 3 times in 3 consecutive paragraphs.

Jade City (2017) 4 stars

"Stylish and action-packed, full of ambitious families and guilt-ridden loves, Jade City is an epic …

The mobster-wuxia hybrid I never knew I needed (spoilers)

5 stars

I'm not usually all that excited about either really martial fantasy or mob stories, because both tend to rely on either very flatly good/evil dichotomies, or just telling the reader that one set of characters are the good ones and should be sympathised with.

At first, this book felt like it was going down that road, since our introduction to some of the core characters is them dispensing a lot of violence for profit, against some thieves who I found myself sympathising with. But by about 1/4 of the way I was getting reeled in by the Kauls' charm even as I was never convinced by their goodness. I think that ambiguity is one of the great strengths of Lee's writing. She could so easily have brought the world another set of Atreides/Skywalkers/Gandalf-and-the-hobbits, and instead we got some much more interesting, real and complex characters fighting a much smaller war. …

The conference of the birds (Paperback, 1984, Penguin) 3 stars

Composed in the twelfth century in north-eastern Iran, Attar's great mystical poem is among the …

charming, to a point

3 stars

I was quite charmed by The Conference of the Birds for some time, but eventually it became rather repetitive. The basic theme is delightful: the hoopoe painstakingly convincing all the other birds to join it on a spiritual quest, which they keep making excuses to cover up their cowardice about. But I was hoping a work of this length would have more breadth of discussion, without which it starts to feel like the same argument over and over again.

reviewed Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune (Paperback, 1978, New English Library) 3 stars

Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set …

Dune and the suck fairy (spoilers)

2 stars

Content warning spoilers, though, you know, it's a book older than me

The Farthest Shore (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 3) (Paperback, 2001, Aladdin) 4 stars

When one door is closed many more are open

4 stars

Content warning mild spoilers inside

The Dark Forest (2016, Head of Zeus) 4 stars

This is the second novel in the "Remembrance of Earth’s Past" near-future trilogy. Written by …


5 stars

This book is in a lot of ways more of everything that Three Body Problem was. It's a huger sweep, a pretty intense exploration of how getting thrown into responsibility can break people, and it builds on a lot of the ideas of the first book about how ununified people would be in response to a threat like this - stuff that now looks rather prescient after a year and a half of covid. It does also suffer from the same weaknesses, perhaps even intensified. In particular there's not much dialogue that is really characters being theirselves as opposed to Liu exploring an idea through his characters. But the good parts were so compelling that this was far from ruining the book for me.

I was left with a few questions, two of which seem like weaknesses of the book: 1) Why did Ye pick Luo to have the conversation …

Blindsight (2006, Tor Books) 4 stars

It's been two months since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming …

Very mixed bag of a book

3 stars

First things first, some content warnings about the book: it contains a lot of violence, a narrator who uses ableist language and ideas repeatedly, and a sort of sensory-illusion body horror that I thought was one of the book's strong points but could be deeply disturbing for the wrong reader.

I want to like this book. It does a great job of imagining aliens who are very deeply alien and in unsettling ways. And at it's best it's a tautly narrated story of the terrifying encounter with them. It also plays some amusing games with vampire tropes, and poses interesting questions about what counts as life, sentience, intelligence, etc.

But I found some of the author's tics grating enough to really put me off. The voice is irritatingly macho-male, to the extent that it makes me, a cis man, want to yell at the author to shut up and cede …

Moby-Dick (Paperback, 2003, Penguin Classics) 3 stars

"Command the murderous chalices! Drink ye harpooners! Drink and swear, ye men that man the …

Deeply flawed but also a true classic

3 stars

I read this over the course of about 6 months as a group read. 5-10 of us would meet for an hour a week and take turns reading chapters. It's a very enjoyable experience that way, and at the same time I don't think I'd even have finished the book if I'd tried to read it alone.

Apart from being notoriously long, it's full of meandering digressions many of which would probably have lost me. And the tone of the writing is dominated by the pomposity of the narrator, which at times is used for great effect but at others just grates. It's also extremely wordily heavy. I realise that some of this is just the literary English of the time, but Melville was well capable of using that style to dramatic effect, like in Bartleby which I found a total page-turner, or some of my favourite individual chapters of …

Fugitive Telemetry (2021, 5 stars

No, I didn't kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn't dump the body …

What can I say, I just continue to <3 Murderbot

5 stars

I found it interesting how this book brought in some contemporary-world themes around refugees and their abusers, but that's not explored particularly deeply, it's just one more reason to cheer on Murderbot as it does its thing. Really this is just one more Murderbot instalment, and I am so very here for that.

We Are Satellites (2021, Berkley Pub Group, Berkley) 5 stars

From award-winning author Sarah Pinsker comes a novel about one family and the technology that …

Very relatable family in a very relatable dystopia

5 stars

This is the sort of near-future sci-fi that's really just one fictional innovation away from the world it was written in, and clearly used as a lens to look at ourselves. It follows one very relatable family and their challenges in adapting--and in some ways being unable to adapt--to a wave of fast social change. I identified strongly enough with each of the main characters in some way that each of their crises broke my heart a little.

The ending wrapped things up a little too neatly and I found that particularly disappointing because it broke the easy belieavability of the rest of the book. But the rest was so good that I can't hold it against book or author.

The Deep (2020, Gallery / Saga Press) 4 stars

Beautiful image, clunky writing

3 stars

I read this book a few months ago with the #SFFBookClub. The setting and imagery are still haunting me, but I found the writing itself sort of clumsy, to the point that while actually reading it diminished the impact, much of which came later as I digested the ideas of the book.

Soil (2013, Penned in the Margins) 5 stars

Engaging, clever poetry about places and non-places

5 stars

Cresswell is a recovering academic geographer, whose poetry is deeply rooted in appreciation of places, particularly London where he lived at the time he wrote this collection. And yet some of the poems I found the most affecting were about the non-places of airports and travel. All in all a wonderful collection.