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Topic: Currently reading - June 2009

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Subject: Currently reading - June 2009
Date Posted: 6/6/2009 10:16 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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SETTLING ACCOUNTS: IN AT THE DEATH, by Harry Turtledove, 2007.

I started this 11-book, and nearly 7000-page, alternate history series a little over 8 years ago, and finished it today. The original point of departure from our timeline occurred back in the American Civil War of the 1860s, and resulted in a southern victory with lasting independence for the Confederacy. Historical trends of our own timeline are then translated into events in this alternate timeline over the next 80 years, leading up to a parallel North American war to our own World War II in the 1940s.

The weakness of this writing is the repeating of each character's backstory, and in the repetitive descriptions of the violent events of warfare. The strength is in the way it describes major events through the ongoing stories of about 20 or 30 ordinary people, across generations. The whole thing could have been re-organized as 25 novels of about 250 pages each, but then the overall arc of history would have been lost.  With so many storylines to play out, the war itself actually ends about halfway through this last book. It's a fascinating and large body of work; hardly ever did I think to myself that some aspect of it was unrealistic.

Finally, I have to say that in this most recent sub-series, I think Turtledove dealt with issues of race in a powerful and personal way. It definitely gives cause to think of what might have been.

The entire series consist of:

  • How Few Remain
  • The Great War: American Front
  • The Great War: Walk In Hell
  • The Great War: Breakthroughs
  • American Empire: Blood and Iron
  • American Empire: The Center Cannot Hold
  • American Empire: The Victorious Opposition
  • Settling Accounts: Return Engagement
  • Settling Accounts: Drive to the East
  • Settling Accounts: The Grapple
  • Settling Accounts: In At The Death

-Tom Hl.

Last Edited on: 6/6/09 10:38 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: June reading
Date Posted: 6/8/2009 11:58 AM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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I've managed to finish Nightlife by Rob Thurman, The Plutonium Blonde by Zakour and Ganem and Unnatural Inquirer by Simon Green.  Currently reading another Charlaine Harris vampire book and a new author for me - The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia.  I'm enjoying the Mambo book.  It's about common use of artificial organs and the making of money by repossession of said organs when the consumer can't make their monthly payment.   The main character is rather ruthless in taking back what belongs to the company, leaving the bloody corpse behind.  Anyways, it's not too graphic and mainly a character study, following this guys life.  Garcia wrote Matchstick Men (according to book blurb) - I've never seen this movie either, so may have to check out what else Garcia has written. 

Good reading so far for June.......

Subject: May & June reading
Date Posted: 6/9/2009 2:48 PM ET
Member Since: 6/23/2006
Posts: 55
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I'm just catching up here so I'm going to list last month's books too. I finally seem to have picked up speed in my reading. Back to what I consider normal anyway.

May books; Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (another No 1 Ladies Detective Agency book) very good

Rogue Bolo by Laumer. My intro to the Bolo books and just ok, but that's mostly a style problem. This book was a two in one and the first novela was done as news clippings and extracts. Not very cohesive.

Queen of Denial by Selina Rosen. This was ok, a little better at the end that I was thinking it would be in the middle. Maybe just not my style, very tongue in cheek.

Into the Deep by Ken Grimwood. Very readable, A pretty well done explanaton of dolphin and whale communication and why we haven't made much progress across species communicating. A bit of an ocean going thriller as well.

Against All Enemies by John Hemry. Another and I think the final in this series of space navy and legal details. I read these out of order, unable to get ahold of the intervening books that I have since obtained from pbs(!!). Very detailed and realistic feeling US space navy - sort of near future. Written by the same author as the Lost Fleet under another name.

Running from the Deity by Alan Dean Foster. Another Flinx and Pip book, just entertaining fluff but Foster can really keep you entertained.

Changer by Jane Lindskold. Finally read this one and everyone was right - it really was very good and very different. Urban fantasy somewhat reminescent of Charles De Lint.

The Scourge of God by S. M. Stirling. Next in the Change series and just as good as ever. These are really good. I tried to describe what I like about them but I can't make it vivid like the author.  

And finally, Burden of Proof by John Hemry. Second in the space navy series. Good so far.



Subject: S.M.Stirling
Date Posted: 6/9/2009 9:53 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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The Scourge of God by S. M. Stirling. Next in the Change series and just as good as ever. These are really good. I tried to describe what I like about them but I can't make it vivid like the author.

Hmm.  Dies The Fire is queued up for one of my next reads.  I've been hesitant to start a new series, but I did like Conquistador, and Peshawar Lancers.  Good to hear you liked the series.

-Tom Hl.

Last Edited on: 6/9/09 9:54 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Good Gacious....
Date Posted: 6/9/2009 11:01 PM ET
Member Since: 5/17/2009
Posts: 64
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I'm doing good to read 1 book a month.

A Mote in God's Eye by Niven and Pournelle. I read Footfall several years ago and decided to pick this one up. So far, so good.

I'm adicted to PBS. A&E needs to do an Intervention episode on PBSers!!

Subject: Not much sci-fi for me this month
Date Posted: 6/10/2009 1:40 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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Well. . . I started the month reading Santa Olivia, Jacqueline Carey's first sci-fi novel, which I loved though it isn't as strong as her Kushiel series. Luckily for me, the new book in that series comes out at the end of the month, and I plan on staying up all night the instant I get it.


Other than that I'm reading only fantasy and non-fiction, it looks like. I read Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses novels (I got really tired of the copycat romances by the fifth one, but hopefully she's done now and can move on to greener pastures); I'm forcing myself to try and read at least the first novel in Orcs by Stan Nicholls, so I can honestly say I gave it a try and then list it here and get something I really want; Charles de Lint's novel The Onion Girl has been sitting half read on my shelf for over a year and I really should get back to it; and I'm slogging my way through a non-fiction book on the medieval castle as research for a story I'm writing, though so far it hasn't provided any of the information I needed. Que sera sera.


But if I run into too much trouble with all that stuff, I might read Elizabeth Bear's Carnival, which I just got.

Date Posted: 6/10/2009 5:00 PM ET
Member Since: 6/23/2006
Posts: 55
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     I am always interested in post-apoc scenarios and Stirling's Change series has that plus the building of the new society/societies that comes after the change. And it doesn't all seem to be too easy - as in a few other post-apoc or colonization stories that even bother to go that far.

     The author can really make the characters come alive for me. And every so often he slips in little in joke for SF fans. In this last one there is a shipment of weapons that are mentioned as bearing the brand of the high quality Weaponshops of Isherman. Heh, heh... but he just slips these in and doesn't hit you over the head with them so if you don't get them you don't even notice them.

   I hope you will enjoy Dies the Fire. Personally I can hardly wait for the next book!


Subject: my latest sf read
Date Posted: 6/13/2009 7:38 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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CAULDRON, by Jack McDevitt, 2007.

I've become a big fan of Jack McDevitt over the past few years, so I am sad to report that I was disappointed with this latest of his "Priscilla Hutchins" novels.  Some of those early novels, The Engines of God, Deepsix, Chindi, and Omega, for example, kept me awake at night reading, with high-tension plots and cosmic mysteries - and each works as a stand-alone novel too, by the way.  But this is more like a trip down memory lane, as Hutchins recounts friends lost on the missions of those earlier books.  Then when the magical-mystery-tour mission gets under way, it seeks out the answers to mysteries left dangling from those other books.  DO NOT READ THIS BOOK FIRST.  It was nice to re-visit the universe in which so many good books were set, but I hope this is the last novel in this line.  The characters alone are not going to provide sufficient material to sustain my interest beyond this point.

-Tom Hl.

Date Posted: 6/14/2009 11:48 AM ET
Member Since: 1/14/2008
Posts: 36
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Alison - The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia.

and you said you wasn't good at reviews , thats a lot better than anything i've written  :)

Spacecat  -  I know John Hemry books would probably be good reading  i'll have to look them up and add them to my reading list. also will have to look up the Change series, sounds interesting


TomHI  - CAULDRON, by Jack McDevitt, 2007

  Tom i got the same feeling about his last couple of books, almost like a lack of story or the need for new material

Last Edited on: 6/14/09 12:00 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/17/2009 4:58 AM ET
Member Since: 1/19/2008
Posts: 14,846
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i finally got Storm from the Shadows by David Weber from the library, and started it tonight.  it's over 700 pages, so i'll be reading it for a bit.  since it's been nearly two years since i read the last book in the Honorverse (around when it came out), it's a good thing there are scattered reminders of where things left off.

Date Posted: 6/17/2009 5:13 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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I'm reading one of the Shomi books.  (SF romance)  This is Razor Girl by Marianne Mancusi.  The romance is not working for me.  But the book is fun, with alot of references to William Gibson's cyberpunk, namely Molly Millions.   What can I say, I'm a sucker for post apocalypse books.  

Date Posted: 6/18/2009 1:43 PM ET
Member Since: 6/23/2006
Posts: 55
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Finished Rule of Evidence, last one left for me of the John Hemry series.

Then I read All Tomorrow's Parties by William Gibson - very good. He always immerses you iin his vision of the future. Very interesting.

Now reading Face of the Enemy by Richard Fawkes. MilSF again by an author new to me. It is just getting really rolling at about page 100. I have the sequel so I have high hopes.....

Baseball is in full swing (heh, heh...) in my house so I am getting extra reading done.

Subject: DIES THE FIRE, by S. M. Stirling, 2004
Date Posted: 6/28/2009 10:35 AM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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The concept here is that in 1998, a mysterious global event took place, which resulted in the inoperability of most technological devices. Specifically importantly to the plot, all machines making use of electicity go dead and stay dead permanently. Beyond that, gunpowder does not burn at the proper rate, making all firearms useless, even while other forms of combustion seem unaffected. As a result, when faced with the fact that such technology is necessary to sustain current population levels, human beings turn to bludgeons, swords, and chainmail, patterning themselves after a variety of pre-industrial societies during the inevitable dieback.

While I usually read science fiction for concepts rather than characters, I have to admit that I took an early dislike to Juniper Mackenzie that only got worse as the novel progressed. I gave her one of the available Mary Sue litmus tests, and her score was off the scale, even without answering the questions only an author could know while writing. In other words, I think Stirling fell in love with his character, and idealized her beyond all plausibility. One formula for suspension of disbelief in science fiction is to put believable characters into the harder-to-believe circumstances. But when there is nothing believable to hang on to, it doesn't work. Fortunately, the events of story-lines other than Juniper's carried the book for me.

While some characters speculate on whether The Change was a natural change in the physical properties of the universe, or a result of deliberate intervention in human affairs, Stirling himself does not really give any explanation. And the characters are way too busy surviving to spend much time thinking about it. The clincher for me though, was when I found out that a steam engine also did not work because of an inability to build up sufficient pressure in the boiler. This does not follow from the electrical and chemical effects previously described, and if vapor pressure isn't working right we get much bigger problems in the natural environment than just the non-function of steam engines. It must be a targetted intervention in technology. I hope Stirling explores this more in the later books of the series, which I will be reading.

-Tom Hl.

Date Posted: 6/28/2009 11:42 AM ET
Member Since: 2/3/2009
Posts: 624
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I've finally begun to read The Foundation novels. I'm currently reading Foundation. Before I read the next one, however, I'll be reading The Clone Republic.

Foundation is pretty good so far, a little dated, but good.

Tom Hl.- I couldn't read the books following Dies The Fire, I didn't really even want to finish that book. I can relate to your dislike of Juniper, but I can't really think of a character that I did like.