The Royal Library of Alexandria (SP Book Discussion)


It’s been a couple decades since I’ve read this, but I’d like to revisit it, too.


Just finished The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark, and it was good, though not great. It had a lighter tone than I expected, but it was a nice counter to some serious supernatural threats. Some moments of great writing, but also some moments of meander.

Prior to that, I finished Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey, which was fantastic. Really excellent. Great main character and 1st-person narrative voice all the way through, lots of mystery and magic, well-drawn characters and setting.

Currently reading Lent, by the wonderful Jo Walton, whose books I must admit to finding hit or miss. This one is definitely a hit so far. Also (very leisurely) making my way though Ted Chiang’s recent collection, which is challenging but less rewarding to me than his first collection.

@coffeentacos I’ve got the Crouch book on my list and am looking forward to it. I liked his previous book a lot.


I’m waiting for Magic for Liars from the library. Can’t wait to read it!

I’ve gotta say, I’m enjoying Recursion a lot more than I did Dark Matter. The structure and premise are more interesting to me and executed more smoothly, making it better on the whole.

There’s something about any story where someone is replaced and the people in their lives don’t notice that doesn’t sit right with me. I nearly stopped reading it when that happened. Just leaves me with a kinda gross feeling that I don’t enjoy.


Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch. Interesting- the subject could just have been a variation on omg teh interwebs so grammer much emoji. However, it’s a nice survey by a linguist of what we’re consciously or unconsciously trying to achieve with new ways of writing. The analogy of emojis to gestures, for example. Quick but engaging read.


As I expected, finished Recursion last night. Absolutely fantastic book.

Picking up A Memory Called Empire after work, which I’m really excited to read. Anthropology-minded space opera? Heck yeah.

If you haven’t heard it, Gretchen McCulloh is also on a linguistics podcast called Lingthusiasm. It’s quite good fun and if you like her writing, it’s her in conversation with another linguist about similar topics.


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’m not sure this is in that book at all. I recall something similar from another Arthurian tale though, perhaps Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry?


A while ago I’d started reading Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and while I was enjoying reading it, the shifting perspectives made it hard to keep track of what was going on so progress was slow. I then shifted to the audiobook and that has helped keep track of things, though by nature of the narrative, it’s still a bit of a blur at times. Still, I’ve nearly finished listening to it and I’m really glad I didn’t drop it entirely!


I don’t think I’ve read that (though I’ve read some other work of his, and could possibly have forgotten). But you’re right that it’s likely from something else. What’s bizarre to me about it is that I should have rested a substantial amount of my memory of affection for TOaFK on a scene I thought was in it, but wasn’t. Now I have to try and figure out what I’ve read that it could possibly be from.


My tastes these days run to the literary and the absolute gutter trash and rarely go anywhere in between (no thanks, Game of Thrones), and although I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to situate Seas of Venus by David Drake among the latter, it definitely hews closer to that than the former category, so. I read The Jungle in paperback (bought from my mall’s Waldenbooks, no doubt) when I was a budding young mercenary (or so I imagined), and certain bits of it have stuck with me over the intervening 28(!) years. I’ve never read Surface Action, the other novel bundled into this omnibus, but it sounds like I won’t be disappointed with it. The Kindle edition is also available for zero dollars if you’d rather have it that way.

It is also on Audible, if you have that, and if not you can buy just this book for $2 it seems; since they are giving away the Kindle edition for $0.00 you can add that to your library and that permits the $2 audiobook buy. I signed up for an Audible free trial to check it out (I am really trying to not hate audiobooks so much), and it seems to be 14.5 hours long, which for $2 is not bad.


Comfort reading time, so a Terry Pratchet double bill with The Fifth Elephant on one device and The Truth on the other, purchased in separate accounts because digital oceans and the impossibility of bringing digital goods with you when you move, or whatever. I have also lined up A Memory Called Empire, after @coffeentacos‘s comments reminded me that I’d meant to buy it after reading the good Verge review.


Started A Memory Called Empire, and I’m not enamoured. We’ll see how it develops. Currently it’s set up as a fairly standard anti-colonialist work, and I much prefer something like the Baru Cormorant books for that. But we will see.


Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, K. J. Parker. A Roman-style empire is faced with mass unrest and the capital is put under siege by vastly superior forces. The defence is made up of a loose rabble of professionals, civilians, and hired toughs, as the commander, Orhan, a common man and military engineer desperately cobbles together strategems, ruses, and plans in an effort to push back the inevitable defeat. Against him are not only the enemy outside the city, but the rival factions within the government, the populace, and the criminal underworld.

Parker writes some amazing stuff, and has for a long time. This book is no exception. Part sarcastic memoir, part mock history, Sixteen Ways is the bitter product of the protagonist, a man who is a minority in the empire that still practices segregation and slavery, who has risen to considerable rank and had further responsibility thrust upon him by circumstance, despite the fact he hates the very empire he has facilitated for most of his life. The book is not so much about heroics as it is about logistics, plans and designs, systems and materiel, infrastructure and fog of war. A stand-out work. Some of the most exciting events are only related as hearsay, which spoils their impact somewhat but which is also a nice nod to the nature of the historical work it is, or at least those it is aping.


Ten Things I Hate About Barbarians


Thirteen Reasons Why I Preserved the Empire.


I did not realize this thread existed. I read a lot and added a good number of the above to my Goodreads list. Thanks all!

I recently re-read The Last Light of the Sun and then The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. He’s my favorite author and I cycle back around to him often. I decided to just move on to Sailing to Sarantium while I’m in that particular fantasy world.

Other recent reads I’d recommend:

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarity. Excellent book. I ended up interested in every single character, even the bit players. Very similar to Fredrik Backman’s stuff for those familiar.

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler is fantasy with a strong military theme and some magic. A bit like the Black Company.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire is in the running for my favorite book of the year. Present-day fantasy with excellent world building and a compelling story. The first bit is confusing but McGuire gets you caught up pretty quick and then it’s a page turner.


Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee. Good science fiction can root what you know in the unfamiliar, and provide new perspectives on old things, and it can also be so entirely new that it disorients you and presents you with a new configuration of the old so radical that it’s unrecognisable. This book is the latter, mixing mathematics and faith into forms of belief that have real literal power and can be harnessed, and endowing heresies with huge importance in a cruel empire calficied by enforced rigid orthodoxies.


The series only gets better, so you’re in for a treat!


Finished off A Memory Called Empire last night (in the nick of time, due back today!). I’ll be surprised if it’s not a big winner come SF/F award time. Absolutely fantastic book, I can’t wait to read more in this universe.


I finished Lent, and it was quite good. Started The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson, which sounded ideal for me, but I found it predictable and not especially well-paced, so I dropped that about halfway through (I don’t think I cared about the characters either).

Now reading The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, by Alexis Hall, and it’s excellent. A sort of vague nod to Holmes and Watson, but in a city populated by weird, deadly, and magical beings, with the main character being a very jaded, very powerful, drug-addled sorceress. Fantastic dialogue and characters. About halfway through and really loving it. This is right up @OhBollox 's lane and probably @coffeentacos too : )


Reading up on it some more, this definitely sounds like something I’d be into! Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

I’ve started Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s (creator of Bojack Horseman) Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory, which so far has been a nice read. As with most short story collections they’re not all amazing so far, but of the 5 or so I’ve read none have been awful.