The Royal Library of Alexandria (SP Book Discussion)


Re-read Sorcerer’s House, or should I say listened, because this time in an effort to break myself of my distaste for audiobooks I did that. Great narration, great book. People complain about Wolfe’s “decline,” but they can’t all be New Sun, nor should they be. I enjoy some of the more intimate books dare I say even more. Nobody quite like Wolfe, and now there won’t be any more.


The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal. A meteor obliterates the US east coast in 1952 and a concerted space program begins a decade before Apollo, in the face of consequent global warming. One part enthusiastic what-if space nerdery, one part a hard reflection of 1950s society with all the teeth-clenching lil‘ lady sexism and automatic racism that implies. Entirely justified Hugo winner, about to read the sequel.


Fall, or Dodge in Hell, Neal Stephenson. I imagine the conception of this book to have been Stephenson reading a review of his earlier work which complained that he was all style and cool ideas, but was otherwise terrible. So he decided to write a book in which there’s a long middle section in which he apes the style of stodgy mythology books. A daring cautionary tale in the value of playing to one’s strengths, because the first third is cool him-being-himself, the middle third is kind of a boring slog, then the last bit is adequate.


This second book is quite good as well. I look forward to the third.

Somewhat on theme is The Last Policeman series by Ben H. Winters. It’s a pre-apocalypse trilogy the examines life under the knowledge of an impending asteroid strike. The writing isn’t nearly as good but the story is engaging and themes are interesting. I enjoyed the series.


Stephenson still not found his way back to readability and storytelling then. Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Anathem are some of my favourite (re-) reads. I read the Baroque Trrilogy once, was impressed, not going to pick it up again. And then Reamde and Seveneves … bored, bounced off, not buying another book unless well-reviewed.


An improvement on most of his books.


Foundryside by Rabort Jackson Benort. Set in a fantasy world where objects can be programmed to defy reality and operate autonomously, and control of such knowledge is strictly controlled, a thief in the lawless slums is set a task: to steal something very valuable for someone powerful, ask no questions, don’t investigate any unusual occurrences, don’t get involved in any complex plots. It goes off with no complications and the book ends, which is a twist I didn’t see coming. It also means it’s a very short book.


Thanks to @biffpow I’m reading The Affair of the Mysterious Letter and I absolutely love it. I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and worried this would simply be a fantasy imitation. It’s not. While it follows the beats of a Sherlock Holmes tale, Shaharazad Haas is infinitely more fun (and vulgar) than Doyle ever pictured Sherlock. I love the intertwining of the Lovecraftian universe that isn’t ever fully explained, only its insanity hinted at (constantly). It’s also really damn funny what with the prude Watson stand-in having to deal with the over-the-top obnoxious Haas and her constant vulgarities and lewdness.

It’s also a fairly long book, which is fantastic because I don’t want it to end. I’m only about 60% through it, but would already highly recommend it to anyone who likes Holmes, Lovecraft, or just plain weirdness.

I also read Magic for Liars and liked it quite a bit as well. Not nearly as much as the Mysterious Letter, but it had its charms. The main character grew a bit tedious with her moping about and boozing, but it all pulled together quite nicely in the end. Harry Potter for lovers of noir, basically. Would recommend, but read Mysterious Letter first.