Official Book Thread

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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby giantsfan97 » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:29 pm

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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby badplantmommy » Sun Dec 25, 2011 4:03 am

Null wrote:
quetzalcoatlus wrote:I am currently reading Psychotic Reactions And Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs.

That's a hugely fun book, except for the dour Village Voice pieces in the latter part of the volume. He has another book, Main Lines, [something else] and Blood Feasts, but the good stuff was pretty much in PRAC.


I enjoyed reading that one! It may be time to check it out from the library again (I have never seen it for sale anywhere; I think it's out of print).
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby jvcc » Sun Dec 25, 2011 4:46 am

I just finished Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I had not researched the book much before beginning it and was under the mistaken belief that it had been written after 1984. That it predates it by over a decade greatly increases my respect for the novel. At times I would feel that it was getting a bit too preachy because one particular moral point was being harped on incessantly, but then an event would occur that would completely contradict that point and I wouldn't know where I stood again. I'm gibbering. In conclusion: not as good as 1984 (mainly because it jumps from character to character rather than settling on its own Winston, which in works of sci-fi can make it difficult for the reader to feel attached to anyone in the strange new world he or she is encountering), but comparable and still very good.

I have the Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition of the book and in the back there's a delightful letter from Huxley to Orwell about a copy of 1984 that had been sent to the former. Huxley uses a brief paragraph to discuss the literary merits of the novel and uses the rest of his letter to launch into a philosophical discussion of whether the realities in either of their books could actually take place. He seems like he would have been an interesting man. The day of his death (22 Nov. 1963) was the day before the first episode of Dr. Who aired (23 Nov. 1963). That's not important but it is a fact that is permanently seared into my mind now because the 23rd of Nov. is my birthday.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby Judas Maccabeus » Sun Dec 25, 2011 12:03 pm

Oh, wow. I knew John F. Kennedy and C. S. Lewis died the same day, but Huxley too? That was not a very good day at all...
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby IanC » Sun Dec 25, 2011 6:06 pm

Brave New World is a great book.

I just got me a kindle.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby quetzalcoatlus » Fri Feb 03, 2012 3:23 pm

Currently reading Cold Mountain. They were cleaning out the lost and found where I intern and I needed something to read. I have not seen the movie, nor am I particularly a "historical fiction" person, but I like it so far. A really good job is done of making the setting of any given scene feel like a real, specific place.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby James » Sat Feb 04, 2012 7:00 am

Finished Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist on Thursday. It wasn't as good as Let the Right One In, which I still think is best, possibly because it was his first and he had the most to put into it, but it was better than Handling the Undead, which had good characters but a slightly lacking story. I enjoyed them all, though, and this one was certainly worth a read.

I've got a whole bunch of things to be reading, so I'm not really sure what to start next. I was thinking of making a start on 1Q84, but there's a good chance I'll end up reading Bad Science instead, simply because it's on my Kindle and therefore convenient.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby jvcc » Sun Feb 05, 2012 7:11 pm

I mentioned in another thread that I had to read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for a class, and I'd like to share a particular passage with all of you [spoilers?].

The speaker of the following scene, who is the psychologically mute and secret grandfather of the possibly autistic main character, is describing an air raid on his German village during WWII. His girlfriend had told him that day that she was pregnant with their child and once the bombing starts he leaves his family's cellar to find her. Then this happens:

I passed the zoo, the cages had been ripped open, everything was everywhere, dazed animals cried in pain and confusion, one of the keeper was calling out for help, he was a strong man, his eyes had been burnt closed, he grabbed my arm and asked me if I knew how to fire a fun, I told him I had to get to someone, he handed me his rifle and said, "You've got to find the carnivores," I told him I wasn't a good shot, I told him I didn't know which were carnivores and which weren't, he said, "Shoot everything," I don't know how many animals I killed, I killed an elephant, it had been thrown twenty yards from its cage, I pressed the rifle to the back of its head and wondered, as I squeezed the trigger, Is it necessary to kill this animal? I killed an ape that was perched on the stump of a fallen tree, pulling its hair as it surveyed the destruction, I killed two lions, they were standing side by said facing west, were they related, were they friends, mates, can lions love? I killed a cub that was climbing atop a massive dead bear, was it climbing atop its parent? I killed a camel with twelve bullets, I suspected it wasn't a carnivore, but I was killing everything, everything had to be killed, a rhinoceros was banging its head against a rock, again and again, as if to put itself out of its suffering, or to make itself suffer, I fired at it, it kept banging its head, I fired again, it banged harder, I walked up to it and pressed the gun between its eyes, I killed it, I killed a zebra, I killed a giraffe, I turned the water of the sea lion's tank red, an ape approached me, it was the ape I had shot before, I'd thought I'd killed it, it walked up to me slowly, its hands covering its ears, what did it want from me, I screamed, “What do you want from me?” I shot it again, where I thought its heart was, it looked at me, in its eyes I was sure I saw some form of understanding, but I didn't see forgiveness, I tried to shoot the vultures, but I wasn't a good enough shot, later I saw vultures fattening themselves on the human carnage, and I blamed myself for everything.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby Jemry » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:56 am

Are we including comics here? If not, John Dies at the End is good and you should all read it at your convenience.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby jvcc » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:50 am

Jemry wrote:Are we including comics here? If not, John Dies at the End is good and you should all read it at your convenience.

There's a comic of that? I read the novel a few years ago and it is amazing and there is a movie coming out.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby Jemry » Fri Feb 10, 2012 1:03 pm

"If not"

The movie's been getting all great reviews and the sequel to the book is supposed to come out later on this year hopefully. Good things all JDatE.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby Jemry » Fri Feb 10, 2012 1:03 pm

Well actually, there was a webcomic done by John and it's wonderfully terrible.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby ntw3001 » Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:29 pm

Jemry wrote:Are we including comics here?


Eh, why not. Maus, Epileptic, Persepolis. Can't think of any more right now that I'd particularly recommend. These things are expensive. Libraries do not exist.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby Jemry » Mon Feb 13, 2012 1:12 pm

Anything by Scott Snyder, his Batman stuff is great, as is American Vampire.

I've been reading through Preacher, I'm up to the eighth of nine trades.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby Zombie Protestor » Sat Feb 25, 2012 3:33 am

After meaning to get around to it, I discovered that I can download Sherlock Holmes books onto my new phone for free, so I'm finally reading them, starting with The Adventures of. Some of the stories I am guessing the outcome well beforehand but they're all in all a good read.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby EsBe » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:42 pm

I just finished two books in the past few weeks, Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and Faith by John Love. Both are science fiction. One is way way way better than the other. Fake pre-edit: gosh darn, I seriously expected this post to be just two paragraphs. :o

Roadside Picnic is speculative sci-fi written in 1971. It inspired both the 1979 film "Stalker" (which I cared little for) and the excellent but needlessly-punctuated 2007 game "S.T.A.L.K.E.R." The premise is that, without warning, six random locations on Earth (described in the book as if the planet were shot with six bullets as it spun) were transmuted overnight to alien landscapes. The "Zones" produce both highly lethal phenomena that kill its victims in a variety of gruesome manners, as well as artifacts with unheard-of properties that are sought after by scientists, sold on the black market, and embargoed by the U.N. The story focuses on one zone in an unnamed country, but specifically on one individual who works as a lab assistant to a scientist studying the zone, but moonlights as a "stalker" who pilfers the zone for profit.

I thought the story was very well written. It is translated from Russian, so you have to get used to the weird cadence of its prose before you can appreciate it much. The individual chapters describe separate moments in a larger over-arching story that spans several years. It also perfectly balances the need to illuminate the story with the need to leave things up to the reader's imagination. Whenever it does reveal a secret, for example the workings of an anomoly, it's usually only after teasing the reader with rumor, hearsay, or veiled references between characters who, themselves, choose to leave the details unsaid. It's also short and sweet. I would say that all fans of science fiction should read this.

Faith, um, not so much. It has a decent story (more on that in a sec), but not so great writing. It's the author's debut novel, so I will not be terribly hard on the guy, but this is one of the few novels that made me want to grab a red pen and highlighter and armchair-edit it. Fewer similes, I would write. Stick to conventional punctuation, I would scribble in the white space where he decided it would be appropriate to channel e. e. cummings for the last sentence of a paragraph. Enough similes, I would repeat, underlined. Holy poopcakes, tell me what actually happened, not what it was 'like!' Seriously, there's one really good metaphor in the book. I know because I made a point to remember the page number it was on.

Okay, the story. Far in the future, when mankind has expanded into a Commonwealth of 29 planets with multiple alien species (as far as I can tell, the book correctly calls them species, not races. Well played, Mr. Love) a mysterious alien ship has appeared. Centuries ago it crippled one civilization before it was absorbed into the Commonwealth, so several super-secret super-powerful battleships are commissioned to prevent it from repeating that. The story covers just one of those ships.

Now, I decided to read this book because a review mentioned that it had a crazy twist ending that will leave readers wondering about its implications for a while. I actually disagree. I think John Love walked in on his son watching some good ol' classic scifi anime. Because (spoiler alert) it has the enemy's motivation from Gunbuster, coupled with significant elements of Eva (the mindfuck mystery, plus battles between Earth's "last resort" superweapon and an enigmatic foe who reveals a bizarre new combat tactic in each encounter). Actually, when the author finally gets down to detailing combat tactics and strategery (it takes a while to get up to speed), it's quite engaging. He was very creative with regards to how the enemy fights, both physically and psychologically. Unfortunately, the "wacky twist ending" is tragically over explained. Essentially, there's an epilogue in which the main character writes, "I figured it out, guys, here's what happened..." So... decent book, but I would not spend money on it. Library only.

Ultimately, I feel bad harping on Faith for being derivative. Kind of like complaining that one of my favorite games is derivative of Roadside Picnic (or Chronicles of the Black Company, for that matter, but that's another post). Or for Bioshock to be, plot point for plot point, identical to System Shock 2. Yeah, it's not original, but the original was good so why make a big deal of it? I guess in Faith's case, the problem is that a twist ending, like a cheap scare in a horror film, depends on the reader not seeing it coming, which is nullified by the fact that the story is already out there. It also helps if it tells a better story than the six-episode anime series it's based on, which it doesn't.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby quetzalcoatlus » Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:31 am

I have finished Cold Mountain. It was pretty good, although, well... have you ever suddenly realized a character is inevitably going to die and felt like you were just waiting for it to happen for the final quarter of the book? Yeah.

I'm currently reading Neuromancer by William Gibson, kinda my first foray into the whole "cyberpunk" thing. Not much character development, but an interesting plot and a very interesting setting. I like the way all these bits of slang and technical terms come up without being expressly defined - it doesn't happen as often as in A Clockwork Orange, but like that book it kind of cements the idea of the main characters being involved in a future subculture, and whenever something is important to the plot you're able to work it out from context.

I also recently picked up Da Capo Best Music Writing 2003, this anthology guest-edited by Matt Groening - the subject matter should be pretty self-evident. I was particularly amused by this essay, which basically imagines a world where punk was the most popular form or rock in the 70's and 80's, and thus Van Halen were a band who were loved by critics and generally ignored/mocked by the public, instead of the other way 'round. The article's funnier if you know a bit about Van Halen, and perhaps more importantly if you've seen the kind of write-ups that critically championed "underdog" bands typically get.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby Zombie Protestor » Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:18 am

So after being talked into it, I read The Hunger Games, which wasn't that bad of a book if not asking the reader to just accept some pretty non-credible (I use that word instead of incredible because incredible has kind of lost its original meaning) stuff right off the bat. I mean, an entire nation bowing down to the whims of one city?

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One that forcibly takes your children from you and sends them off to die?

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Okay, so it's fairly obvious that the book is a satirization of the U.S. (the capitol) and the rest of the world (the various districts). People who live in the capitol don't know what it's like to go hungry and have nothing to do with their days besides fashion. People in the districts have to fend for themselves and resent the capitol, and the capitol does not understand why they are resented. Some of the districts are pretty well off, but are ultimately living to serve the capitol.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby EsBe » Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:16 pm

I went on vacation for a long weekend a little while ago, and one of the books I brought was Nevermore by Harold Schechter, a murder mystery and (what I can only describe as) a typical odd couple/buddy-cop drama between Edgar Allen Poe and Davy Crockett. I had not read any real mystery novels before this, so I do not have a baseline of quality to judge the story against, but I enjoyed it. I wasn't sure at first whether to be enamored of or annoyed by the way the author wove lines from Poe's works into the narration (for instance, "Only this and nothing more" as a throwaway line) but after deliberation I decided to be charmed by it.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby jvcc » Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:31 am

Has anyone read Brideshead Revisited? I watched the Granada serial based on the novel earlier this summer, having heard that it was very good. I liked the first two episodes because I thought that their exploration of the inherent homoeroticism in the Oxbridge education system was extremely interesting and well done, but it went downhill after that for me because it didn't continue to explore those issues to anything reaching a resolution (it just dropped them, in other words). Instead it started to focus more on the uniquely English hysteria toward Catholicism, which doesn't really resonate with me as an American raised in the Evangelical tradition. Nevertheless, I was watching an episode from the last series of the original Upstairs, Downstairs in which Anthony Andrews made a guest appearance and it reminded me of how much I liked him as Sebastian and caused me to consider the possibility of looking in Waugh's book at some point.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby James » Wed Oct 10, 2012 6:35 pm

It's very strange to hear a foreigner talking about Granada Television. It evokes memories of the weird G-arrow logo thing appearing at the ends of programmes in the early Nineties. Since it got subsumed into ITV I've barely heard or thought of it at all. To have someone who wasn't even exposed to it in that context bring it up is strange in a way I can't satisfactorily express.

On the subject of books, I'm currently making my way through Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, no, not that David Mitchell. I bought it ages ago because I heard a review on the radio that made it sound very interesting, but never actually started it until I learned that the Idle Book Club would be discussing it on their second episode. I'm only about a quarter of the way through, but I'm enjoying it so far, and am very impressed by the author's imagination and flexibility with form. For the uninitiated, the book takes the form of extracts from various books, letters and diaries, each from or set in a different time or place, but all interconnected somehow. It's a very showy and post-modern device (about which at least one wry joke has already been made within the novel), but it's effectively accomplished, and with justification, I trust. I'm excited to see where it goes next. The Wachowskis have made a film of it, which could be interesting, but the form of the novel warrants attention, I think.

Before that I read a few dumb things, and before those I read The Sense of an Ending, also for the Idle Book Club, although this one I had no prior knowledge of. It's an interesting perspective: the memories of an ageing man who acknowledges the infallibility of his own memory, and who isn't really the star of his own story. It's a good book, but I feel like I might not have been astute enough to have get the most out of it.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby jvcc » Wed Oct 10, 2012 6:51 pm

James wrote:It's very strange to hear a foreigner talking about Granada Television. It evokes memories of the weird G-arrow logo thing appearing at the ends of programmes in the early Nineties. Since it got subsumed into ITV I've barely heard or thought of it at all. To have someone who wasn't even exposed to it in that context bring it up is strange in a way I can't satisfactorily express.

I was not aware that it had been subsumed into ITV. It was a big part of my formative years because it was around the age of eleven or twelve that I got into Sherlock Holmes in a big way, and they produced the adaptation with Jeremy Brett.

James wrote:I'm currently making my way through Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell,

:lol:

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:(
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby ntw3001 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:22 pm

Okay I have embarked upon Madame Bovary. I am about three pages in, discounting the foreword and biography of the author. But basically I am interested in Flaubert because his approach to writing is something I can get behind, but also it doesn't sound like he would translate terribly well. I'm pretty certain I'm missing out by not being fluent French speaker.
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby chrismachine » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:43 pm

If I find the time, I could read it in French for you and we could discuss...
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Re: Official Book Thread

Postby jvcc » Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:09 pm

I won't have time to read it, but I wouldn't mind being let in on snippets of that discussion since Flaubert was a major influence for many British writers of the fin de siècle (an area which I study).
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