The Royal Library of Alexandria (SP Book Discussion)


Purchased. Lord knows I :heart: me some post-apocalyptic fiction


I’ve read the first two books of The Expanse series and thought they were good, not great. I’ve read some rather poor reviews of the next couple books. I’m looking for a book right now and am considering getting back in to the series and I’m wondering if anyone has any thoughts on the series as a whole, even if there are low points. Is it worth reading through the series to where it is at now?


I am up to book 5 currently. I am sidetracked in my reading currently (reading all the Witcher books) but surely want to return to the Expanse soon.
The boon and bane of the series are the looong character arcs of seemingly unimportant new people introduced into the story with each book. I at least liked the fact that the mystery of the Protomolecule gets resolved and it isn’t a MacGuffin forever.

So if you can stomach the constant switcheroo then go for them. I believe the books are ok.


Since the first season of the TV show covered the first half of the first book and the second season took care of the second half of the first book, I assumed the third season of the show would take is through the second book. About halfway through season three it seems to jump right in to book three, so I’m reading it now to stay ahead of the show.


The Raven Tower, Ann Leckie. I was very impressed with Leckie’s oblique approach to science fiction in the justly-lauded Ancillary Justice series, and the Raven Tower is her doing the same to fantasy. On the face of it, this is a fantasy novel which carries you along with a classic politics-and-revenge plot in well-realised description of a medieval society centred around small gods as real and invokable powers to a surprisingly chilling conclusion. The story has two strands, one superficially a heir-comes-to-reclaim-his-kingdom story, and the other a history narrated by a small god. Much is unsaid or only alluded to. The logic of small gods, who can make changes to the world by making a definite statement but at a proportionate cost to their power, is rigorously applied (and actually, an implication of that has just occurred to me which may necessitate another read-through…hm). Recommended.


I haven’t had much time for reading but I saw this short story recommended and enjoyed it.


IIRC Pinsker has just released a book; likely to be essential. She’s brain-expanding.


3/4 of the Murderbot series by Martha Wells. The interior life of a lethal security cyborg, which has managed to hack its own control systems and discovered it likes long-running soap operas and solitude. Much against its will, it also feels obliged to help people and periodically has an emotion.

Fairly lightweight stuff, but enjoyable. Going to buy the fourth despite a bit of a humph at paying novel prices for novellas.


I’ve abandoned hope of finding a book that understands the dichotomy of warfare in Vietnam (not even the Burns documentary gets it), so plumped for Dereliction of Duty by McMaster, and I’m glad I did. The book details the failings at the top of the chain of command, from individuals simply not communicating clearly nor being professional, to organisations and committees failing their basic function, and becoming institutionally hidebound. Of particular importance is the split between military and civilian understandings, and the unwillingness of the military to say ‘no’. This was at least in part fostered by distrust and suspicion left over from previous presidencies, but was not remedied at any point, and only grew worse.


Aurora Rising. Despite positive reviews, eh. A rehash of various sci-fi tropes, gestalt planet, Firefly-like Team of misfits, etc. Mediocre, uninclined to look out for the second volume.

What I am looking out for is a history of the Weimar Republic, for uh, general interest, not because I suspect we’re living through the Britpop dance remix in any way, oh no. @OhBollox, any suggestions?


Man…that is an awesome analogy if there ever was one…


Peukert’s The Weimar Republic: The Crisis of Classical Modernity is excellent. It may have been surpassed since, but a great many such books that deal with Weimar are just Nazis: The Prequel.

Evans’ The Coming of the Third Reich sounds like one of those, but isn’t. Recommended.

Schumann’s Political Violence In The Weimar Republic doesn’t cover the whole country, it uses Saxony as a microcosm of the whole state, but it’s a very good work and a really solid argument.

I’ve heard Sebastian Haffner is excellent, but he seemed to be more widely available in German, which I’m not fluent enough in.


@SpiceTheCat got me thinking away and I ended up digging up some AJP Taylor to re-read. The Course of German History and The Origins of the Second World War remain essential reading, with some caveats.

“A system cannot be a substitute for action, but can only provide opportunities for it.”


Summerland, Hannu Rajaniemi. It’s 1938 and there’s a cold war between the British Empire, which has discovered and is busy colonising the afterlife, and the USSR, which is overseen by a machine god Lenin powered by collectivised souls. Deliciously good, reminiscent of Tim Powers’ Declare.



Have you read this? Is it good? I am wary, for this kind of thing is often (for me) unreadably amateurish, understandable since it’s often written by people under like 27.


It’s good but an acquired taste. I like the way it dissects the games. Ed Smith and Reid McCarter have been around a bit.

As well as our own knowledge and what we find personally fascinating, the following
pages represent our attempt to de-mystify—to clarify Metal Gear Solid while at the
same time looking through and interrogating its reputation as a great game series
and its creator’s reputation as a great artist. We avoid discussions of playthroughs
and events that happened specifically, organically to us whilst playing Metal Gear
Solid; though personal, each essay is based around moments and sequences that are
inarguably present in each Metal Gear Solid game, and available for any player to
experience. Considering the series is acclaimed, and promoted, on the basis of the
cohesion of its artistic vision, our ethos is to focus exclusively on what the makers
of Metal Gear Solid have decided to include in their games, and to then debate the
possible meanings surrounding those decisions


I’ve been after an easily readable account of the low-water mark/death-knell of imperialism that was Suez for a little while, not because I’m scared of a hard read, but because my brain needs a rest, and lo and behold, von Tunzelmann has done just such a volume, albeit it has plenty of depth, it’s just eminently readable with it. While it perhaps suffers a little due to also including the Hungarian Uprising and risks becoming too thinly spread across too much historic goodness, it’s also a grand attempt at showing the breadth of what has happening at the time. The blatant opportunism of Suez and the mistakes made are picked over, and the personalities and their weaknesses exposed in great detail.


Finished reading Brian Evenson’s Song for the Unraveling of the World over the weekend and immediately got started on Blake Crouch’s Recursion.

Song is the first I’ve read of Evenson’s work, and apparently it’s not even his best. I thought it was pretty much perfect, so I’m looking forward to reading more of him. Weird/horror that just grows a sense of unease with each story.

Recursion continues Crouch’s trend of twisty thrillers, this time playing with time and memory. It’s good fun to see the layers peel back and reveal more and more.

Once I’ve finished it, on to A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine.


Recently reread The Once and Future King, an old favorite, to see whether it’s worth recommending to my daughter. Very strange experience. I still see and feel the charm, but I’m much more critical of it now. For one, it’s aggressively of its time for a book about the distant past—no attempt is made to present a perspective from beyond the narrow interests of a conservative, mid-century Englishman. Native Americans get mentioned as pure stereotypes, “the present” is derided in numerous ways with no appreciation of any improvements, standards of justice are seen as arising exclusively in England, and generalizations which either lack support or even contradict nearly universal experiences are commonplace. It’s bizarre to me that clothing all that in erudite knowledge of obscure medieval terms and a simple appreciation for gentleness should have charmed me so thoroughly, and still has such power.

But none of that is the strangest bit: my favorite scene from the book isn’t in it! I distinctly recall a section about jealousy, and how Arthur was brought up with too much love to feel it, which ended which him placing Guinevere’s hand in Lancelot’s. I read an old copy, and perhaps there’s a page missing or two pages which I turned as one, but I didn’t see this scene at all. But I was looking out for it the whole time because I remembered that scene frequently and have long wondered how it’d seem, revisited as an older man, so I’m sure I didn’t read it.